Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nutrition: Carbohydrate Factsheet

This is a nutrition article I wrote for Total Guide to Bath:
Fact sheet- Carbohydrates

Many of you may feel a little scared or confused by the recent media highlighting of sugars and carbohydrates- such as the documentary on BBC’s “Horizon” programme, and Change4Life’s warnings regarding the hidden sugars we feed our children. But theres not reason to fear! Carbohydrates (even sugars!) should be playing an essential part of our daily diets.

Firstly, here are the basics regarding carbs. There are 4 different types of carbohydrates:

Monosaccharides- includes Glucose (found in almost all carbohydrates), Fructose  (sugars derived from fruits) and Galactose.

Disaccharides- includes Sucrose (table sugar), Lactose (Dairy products) and Maltose (Malt-based products).

Oligosaccharides- a group of complex carbohydrates, found mostly in vegetables.

Polysaccharides- the mostly complex carbohydrates, and includes starches (found in foods like potato and pasta) and Fibre (found in wholegrain products, cereals, and pulses).

So what does all this mean I hear you cry! Well, in our daily diets, 47% of our nutritional energy intake should be coming from Carbohydrates, with not more than 10% coming from sugars. To keep carbohydrate intake high, but sugar levels low, you need to try to consume more of the Low Gi or “Complex” carbohydrates, like the oligosaccharides and polysaccharides mentioned above- through consuming plenty of starchy root vegetables and wholegrains. If you base your main meals around those foods, and avoid the (perhaps obvious) sugary drinks, sweets, pastries, chocolates and (perhaps less obvious) white bread and sweetened “Juice Drinks”, then you shouldn’t be consuming too much sugar and you should be leading a healthy diet.

As a nutritionist I am often asked whether “fruit juice is healthy”, as it is very high in sugar. Because of the vitamin C content (which boosts your immune system so helps you avoiding catching colds and viruses) , and because fruit juice adds to 1 of your “5 a day” fruit and veg portions- there is no way that I could say to anyone “don’t drink fruit juice”, just because it’s a little high in sugars. I would advise people, however, who may be worried about consuming too much sugar, to not consume over 500ml of fruit juice a day.

How do you fit these carbohydrate recommendations easily into your diet? Well here are some examples of meals that keep’s your sugars low and your carbs high!

Breakfasts
I bowl of All Bran, with 40g sultanas
2 slices wholemeal toast, with baked beans
Porridge made with milk, grated apple, cinnamon, and a little honey to sweeten if needed.

Lunches
1 large bowl carrot and cumin soup, with 2 slices of wholemeal bread.
1 Baked sweet potato, topped with cottage cheese and salad on the side.
Large portion of tuna and butterbean salad, with a light mayonnaise dressing and plenty of lettuce mixed in.

Dinners
Stir fried Beef and courgettes, in black bean sauce, served with wholemeal noodles.
Chilli con carne, with kidney beans and green peppers, served on brown rice.
Roast chicken, with skin-on potato wedges, sautéed broccoli and mushrooms, and onion gravy.

Snacks
Hummus with carrot sticks, celery sticks and radish crudités
Handful of nuts and seeds.
2 ryvita, with peanut butter and sliced banana

So don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have carbs- enjoy them as regular part of your vibrant healthy  and tasty diet!

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