For many people, the word ‘carbs’ signifies the ultimate enemy. Due to the negative connotations, many people who are trying to shed those extra winter kilos try to avoid them at all costs – but is this a good strategy?
Glucose is our primary source of energy that we get from get from food. The glycemic index (GI) was originally designed for people with diabetes to help monitor their blood sugar levels, but is a useful tool for all us when planning a healthy meal. We know that food can be low in GI or high-GI, but what does all this mean? Each food is ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 and is based on the speed at which they are broken down into glucose. Low-GI foods have a value of 55 or less and high-GI, 70 or more. Once broken down, the glucose level in the blood begins to rise and our pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which helps to bring our blood sugar levels to a more manageable and steady range.
The lower the GI, the better it is for us. If you typically eat high-GI foods e.g. processed foods like cakes, lollies, biscuits and white bread, you will have a lot of immediate energy in your blood. Your body will use this new energy, rather than burning and consuming the energy available in your fat stores. This is why when we eat high-GI foods, we get a rush of energy and may feel full for a while but not long after our sugar high. It leaves us feeling lethargic, hungry and craving more sugar. Alternatively, low-GI foods such as sweet potatoes, brown rice and legumes provide a natural slow release source of energy that is long lasting and generally has higher amounts of fibre and protein as well.
A recent study from the University of Sydney showed that people who followed a low-GI diet were not only twice as likely to lose 5% of their body weight, but were also twice as likely to keep it off, compared to those who followed a high-carb, low-fat diet.
Other than the fact that it can help maintain and promote weight loss, a low-GI diet can also reduce a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, coronary heart disease and even breast cancer. The effect of stabilising blood sugar levels also helps to boost your mood, decrease your food cravings and also promotes a restful and non-interrupted sleep.
There’s so many benefits for replacing high-GI foods for low-GI foods. You’ll see a change in your mood, it can assist with your weight loss goals and will decrease your risk of various diseases. We need carbs in our diets, so we just need to choose the right ones. So nurture your body with what it needs to stay healthy, and remember, carbs are NOT the enemy.