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Are carbohydrates our friends?

Are carbohydrates our friends?

The constant question is: can we eat carbohydrates during dieting or after a lifestyle change? The most experienced people may sneer when they read or hear about this, but it's good to have one place to find out about it for a beginner who is just starting. That's why we've tried to do our usual research and produce a comprehensive article on the subject. Of course, this is no substitute for consulting a doctor or dietician.

The first and perhaps most important thing to remember is that carbohydrates are not the devil's food, because the body needs the right amount. They are present in most foods in some form. However, there are good and 'friendly' carbohydrates, called slow-absorbing carbohydrates. The other kind is the bad guys because after eating them, blood sugar levels rise suddenly and then fall as quickly as they arise. For this reason, it is best to avoid these foods and replace them with slow-absorbing ones that are more beneficial to the body and do not cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate. These are called fast-absorbing carbohydrates.

We've collected some examples:

  • white flour, as well as bread, pasta, cakes, and other baked goods made it. 
  • potatoes
  • white rice
  • pureed vegetables and fruits.
  • sugary drinks
  • Fruits worthy of special mention are bananas, grapes, watermelons, and cantaloupes.
  • maize-based products
  • puffed, extruded products.
  • Granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, grapes, cane sugar

These are usually also high in glycaemic index. It is remarkable to know that the degree of processing of a product plays an important role in determining the glycaemic index, as the different cooking processes degrade the fibres, which are responsible for slow absorption.

Are carbohydrates our friends?

What factors influence the glycemic index?

Most foods have a glycaemic index between 0 and 100, which is influenced by several factors. It is primarily determined by the carbohydrate content of the food and the composition of the carbohydrates, but it is also greatly influenced by the protein, fat, and fibre content of the food. All these significantly influence the rate of absorption, as they all slow down the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates. This means that the more protein, fibre, and fat a food contains, the lower the glycaemic index.

Some foods are so low in carbohydrates that it is not possible to determine their glycemic index. Examples include meat, cheese, fish, mushrooms, butter, fats, oils, and eggs.

In addition to these, several factors can affect the determination of the glycaemic index, which we can cause ourselves, even during preparation. Examples include:

  • Maturity: the riper the fruit, the higher the sugar content.
  • Preparation method: Any cooking method that damages the plant's cell walls in some way. (e.g. cooking, blending, chopping, grating, etc.). However, there are also gentle preparation methods, such as steaming.
  • Cooking time: the higher the glycemic index of starchy foods, the longer they are cooked.
  • Everything happens in its own time: the body reacts to carbohydrate intake differently throughout the day. It is more sensitive in the morning or mid-morning, which is why it is recommended to eat foods with a lower glycaemic index at this time of day, while those with higher numbers should be consumed in the afternoon or evening.

Slow-absorbing carbohydrates

This type of carbohydrate has the special ability that when it enters the digestive tract, it is not absorbed immediately but more slowly and gradually. This helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and ensures a steady supply of energy and a feeling of fullness.

Are carbohydrates our friends?

They also usually have a low (0–55) or medium (56–69) glycaemic index. However, it is worth noting that these carbohydrates can be just as fattening if not consumed at the right time and in the right amounts.

We've put together some examples you can safely consume, as they are slow-absorbing and fall into the low-to-medium glycaemic index group.

  • Oatmeal
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Wholemeal pasta
  • Bulgur
  • etc.

In summary, it is worthwhile to favour slow-absorbing carbohydrates in your diet as they do not raise blood sugar levels as much and can keep you feeling full for much longer, compared to fast-absorbing carbohydrates. Also, choose foods with a low to medium glycaemic index. Indeed, most fruits and vegetables have a glycaemic index, so it's worth paying attention to that too.

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