What separates the good carbohydrates from the bad?
One increasingly recognized factor is the rate at which they raise blood sugar levels, what is known as their glycemic index (GI).
The glycemic index (GI) is a system that was developed in the 1980's to rank carbohydrate-containing foods based on how much they raise blood sugar levels.
High GI food are quickly digested and absorbed, producing a quick spike in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Low GI foods on the other hand are slowly digested and absorbed, producing a smaller, more gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, which helps protect against disorders.
|Glycemic index (GI)
|| Baked potatoes, instant potatoes, pretzels, rice cakes, jelly beans, cornflakes, rice chex and many other processed snack foods and breakfast cereals
|| White bread, waffles, plain bagel, corn chips, saltines, Melba toast, french fries, carrots
|| Cream of wheat, quick-cooking oats, whole-wheat bread, couscous, new potatoes, table sugar, soft drinks, angel food cake, raisins, pineapple, cantaloupe
|| Brown rice, wild rice, popcorn, sweet potatoes, dense/coarse whole grain breads, whole-grain pita and tortillas, mango, banana, kiwi, sweet corn
|| Minimally processed cereals like old-fashioned oatmeal, oat bran and All bran; Bulgar wheat, pasta, green peas, grapes, oranges, chocolate
|| Legumes, apple, apricots, pears, yogurt, milk
|| Barley, cherries, grapefruit, peaches, plums. soya beans.
|| Salad vegetables, non starchy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and green beans
The GI is a good starting point for choosing the good carbohydrates but it's not the only thing that separates the good carbohydrates from the bad.
Where do foods like meat, fats, and oils fit in?
Since these foods are usually carbohydrate-free, they are deemed to have a GI of zero, that doesn't mean they can be eaten in unlimited quantities. Calories and other nutritional attributes must also be considered when planning a smart carbohydrates-conscious diet.
Dietary carbohydrates are classified in a number of ways - according to the type of carbohydrate in the food, the level of commercial processing the food has undergone, or the blood glucose or glycemic responses to the carbohydrate within the body.
- Simple Carbohydrate
- Complex Carbohydrate
1. Simple Carbohydrate
Carbohydrates are made up of varying numbers of sugar molecules. Simple carbohydrates include mono saccharides and di-saccharides. Because of their small size, mono saccharides and di-saccharides are called simple carbohydrates or simple sugars.
Examples: Raw sugar, jaggery, honey, sweet fruits like mango and banana, jams, jelly soft drinks.
2. Complex carbohydrate
Complex carbohydrate consist of many mono saccharides bonded together in a variety of bonding patterns. Complex carbohydrates include oligo saccharides made up of 3 to 10 mono saccharides and polysaccharides, which consist of more than 10 mono saccharides.
Examples: Brown bread, vegetables, corn, oats, legumes, apple pulp, psyllium, strawberries, citrus fruits.
Complex carbohydrates contribute starch and fiber to the diet and may also supply proteins, important vitamins and minerals. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly than simple carbohydrates, giving the body a more continuous source of energy. Complex carbohydrates come from grains, beans and legumes and vegetables.
Breads: Whole grain breads are good sources of complex carbohydrates. Multigrain, buckwheat, whole-wheat, barley, rye, and oat breads are excellent choices. When made with enriched white flour, crackers, pizza dough, buns, tortillas and other flat breads are also sources of carbohydrates but they are not as nutritious as their whole grain cousins.
Cereals, Pasta and Rice: Whole-grain wheat, rye, oat and barley cereals-hot or cold-are good sources of carbohydrates along with pasta, polents (cornmeal), rice (brown), couscous (made from semolina flour) and kasha (buck wheat)
Beans, Legumes and veggies: Dried beans, lentils and peanuts are all good sources of complex carbohydrates as are potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn and squash.