Carbohydrates are your body’s chief source of energy. Basically, carbs are the fuel that runs the engine called the body. Along with energy-provision, carbs also help to regulate metabolism of protein and fat, therefore, those who plan on going “no carb” in their diets are basically not processing the three most important nutrients properly.
Our cells need glucose for energy. All our body processes would come to a standstill if it did not process any glucose. This glucose comes from processing all the food we eat. Since glucose is a carbohydrate itself, our energy comes directly and most easily from carbohydrates.
One other form of carbohydrate is fibre. This is required for regulating the digestive system, as well as keeping our stomach and bowels clean. Fibre is the carbohydrate which prevents constipation. If your digestive system is storing waste (as in constipation), it becomes a breeding ground for infections and long-term diseases. Therefore, fibre is extremely important.
Fibre also decides how fast sugar will be released into the blood. Foods which have more fibre generally release sugar slowly into the blood, giving sustained energy over a long period of time. Foods that have less fibre release sugar instantly into the blood, causing high sugar problems, damaging the body.
Around 60 per cent of our day’s nutrition should come from carbohydrates. Does this mean that we guzzle down rotis or rice all day? Absolutely not! There are plenty of other sources of carbohydrates. Grains are the most widely known sources, but refined grains are terrible for your health. You need to have whole grains, as they contain the energy-giving carbohydrates as well as the digestive system-regulating fibre.
Another source of carbohydrates is your fruits. As we know, some fruits give energy quickly, and some over a period of time. This is because they convert to glucose directly in the body. Similarly, vegetables come under the umbrella of carbs as well. In fact, these are the main ones. These, too, provide us with energy and fibre, but they release the glucose more gradually in the blood. Out of the 60 per cent, 40 per cent should be your vegetables and fruits.
Good and bad carbs
Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient and one of your body’s major sources of energy. Generally they come in two main categories—simple and complex. Good or complex carbohydrates energise and satisfy you for a long time. They are known to cut down weight, lower cholesterol, stabilise blood sugars and regulate hunger.
Bad or simple carbohydrates make the pancreas and liver work overtime due to a sudden, drastic increase in sugar levels. After this sharp spike, there happens an equally fast fall in blood sugar, leaving us irritable, restless, hungry, and tired, craving another sugar shot. Simple carbohydrates are empty calories that lack nutrients, convert to fat and make you eat more.
Even worse, bad carbohydrates cause chronic, dangerous diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, gall stones, kidney stones, arthritis as well as cancer. So, remember white flour and sugar causes grave harm. Unfortunately we let it seep into our daily diets.
Good carbohydrates provide cells with nourishment and energy. Eat them intellectually.
There are a variety of Indian grains especially millets which provide more nutrients and long-lasting energy—bajra, jowar, ragi, rice, wheat, maize, amaranth, unpolished rice. You can make bread, pasta or rotis from them.
The glycemic index or GI measures how a carbohydrate containing food raises blood sugar. GI is a ranking of foods based on how fast or slowly they cause the blood sugar levels to rise. Foods that take longer to raise the blood sugar levels are considered low glycemic index foods and tend to keep you feeling fuller for a longer time. Diabetics should eat low GI foods as far as possible and stay away from high glycemic index foods that raise blood sugar levels quickly.
When the food we eat takes longer to raise our blood sugar levels, it tends to give us sustained energy for a longer period of time. This keeps us away from unnecessary binging on foods that are usually junk or fast food. Also, when sugar levels spike and fall quickly, we tend to feel tired. This makes us crave more unhealthy sugary food. So, eating low glycemic index foods is extremely beneficial for a diabetic and also for people who are trying to lose weight, as these foods keep you satiated longer.
A low glycemic index diet consists of vegetables, fruits and legumes, a moderate amount of protein and unsaturated fats and fewer refined carbohydrate foods. One must include more unprocessed and high fibre foods such as lentils, beans, legumes, unpeeled fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
Our traditional Indian grains such as jowar, bajra, barley and ragi are low in the glycemic index as well. Instead of white rice which is a high GI food, eat brown or unpolished rice. Not only is it a low GI food, it will keep you full for longer and has valuable fibre and vitamins.