Moderate intake of healthy carbohydrates can make up part of a balanced diet for weight maintenance. The issue of weight gain arises when unhealthy carbohydrates are eaten to excess, but this can be solved by being aware of which carbs are the right ones for your body.
Healthy vs Unhealthy carbohydrates
Unhealthy – Fast digesting, refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates are known as ‘white carbohydrates’. They have had their fibrous outer shell removed leaving you with just the starchy inside. The outer shell (the bran) is where all the vitamins, minerals and fibre lie. By removing this you are stripping away all the goodness and leaving behind a nutrient poor energy source.
They are known as ‘fast digesting’ carbohydrates. The faster a carbohydrate is digested, the sooner their sugar molecules hit your bloodstream causing a rapid rise in blood sugar.
The higher and more rapid the shoot in blood sugar the sharper and more rapid it will drop, leaving you with low blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling tired with a lack of concentration, irritability, crying spells, forgetfulness, mood swings, headaches, insomnia.
Examples of refined carbohydrates:
- White and brown sugar
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, white noodles
- Pastries, cakes, cookies, biscuits made with white flour and sugar
- Sweets, chocolate, desserts, fizzy drinks
- Fruit juice, fruit squash, fruit extracts
- Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, fruit concentrates
- Dried fruit
Blood sugar imbalances can lead to weight gain….
Insulin is a fat storage hormone. Every time you eat refined foods like sugar, white bread, white pasta, white rice, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks like cola, insulin will be released, which will store the excess sugar as fat.
Fast digesting carbohydrates cause:
- The body to release large amounts of insulin.
- Energy slumps and tiredness
- The stress response to be triggered which encourages weight gain
- Increase food cravings and hunger
- Hormonal imbalances
Healthy – Unrefined Slow Digesting Carbohydrates
Unrefined carbohydrates are known as whole grains. In other words, they have their nutrient rich bran left intact. The bran is where all the fibre lies. Fibre slows the rate at which the carbohydrate is broken down and the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream.
The slower the sugar hits your bloodstream the:
- Less of the fat storage hormone insulin is released
- Fewer energy slumps occur
- Moods are more stable and concentration levels improve
- Fewer food cravings and less hunger
- Less inflammation
- Less disruption to hormonal balance
The healthiest carbohydrates of the lot:
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas
- Sweet potato
- Brown or Wild Rice
- Starchy vegetables such as pumpkin, plantain, carrots, parsnip, butternut squash
- Wholegrain wheat (brown bread/pasta)
How many carbs should we be having to keep us slim?
Not only is the type of carbohydrate we choose vital for health and weight maintenance, portion control is essential. Many of us over fill our plate with carbohydrates and exercise too little leading to weight gain. We should only fill a quarter of our plate with starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, or potato etc. to maintain a healthy balance.
Lily Soutter Bsc (Hons) Nutrition, Dip ION, mBANT, CNHC
My passion for health and nutrition stems back from when I was a child suffering from chronic psoriasis. No medical treatment seemed to help me and by my teen’s I was determined to do something about it. I cleaned my diet up with the advice from a Nutritionist. This was the first time in my life my psoriasis did not appear and has stayed in remission since.
My extensive knowledge of the science of food and health enables me to help you be the healthiest version of you
Once I had seen how powerful food can be to health I decided to train at one of the best Universities to obtain a Food and Human Nutrition degree. I was especially attracted to the large amount of research and studies Newcastle University conducted, and their high focus on evidence based science.
I then went on to train as a Nutritional Therapist at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition to help coach individuals on how to obtain optimal health. I am a member of BANT, the professional regulating body for Nutritional Therapy. I am also CNHC registered, the regulating body for complementary therapists.
I consult from my clinic based in Chelsea, The Portobello Clinic, Notting Hill and at Nuffield Health.