Last weekend I was talking to a friend and as seems to often be the case with me these days we were talking about health and food. In the process I mentioned that cucumber was a source of carbohydrate and she looked surprised and said “really? so what should we eat then?” Now that statement highlighted two things:
1) The common confusion as to what foods fall under the carbohydrate group
2) The common misconception that carbohydrates are ‘bad’ and should be avoided or limited.
So today we will be looking at carbohydrates, what role they play in our bodies and how to differentiate between the different types of carbohydrates.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the essential macro-nutrients which means they need to be obtained from food. Carbohydrates are used in our bodies to produce energy, they do this by breaking carbohydrate rich foods down into glucose which is transported into the cells where the process of energy generation begins.
Which Foods are sources of Carbohydrates?
There are two broad categories of Carbohydrates namely simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates the major difference being the rate at which they are broken down and absorbed.
Simple carbohydrates are made of one or two sugar molecules and therefore broken down quicker thereby given us ‘quick’. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are made up of multiple sugar molecules which take longer to break down.
Some food sources of simple carbohydrates:
- Jams, jellies
- Fruit drinks
- Soft drinks
- Table sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Maple syrup
- White Rice
- White flour products such as pasta, cakes, pastry etc
Sources of Complex Carbohydrates:
- All kinds of Vegetables – Leafy green vegetables, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Cucumber,Celery, Onions, Bell peppers etc
- Whole grains and foods made from them, such as oatmeal, pasta, and whole-grain breads. Also brown rice, pearl barley, corn, quinoa etc.
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin, yams, cassava etc
- Beans, lentils, and peas
Some complex carbohydrates have a higher carbohydrate content and are generally known as starchy carbohydrates. These include foods such as potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips. As a general rule all ‘below the ground’ crops have a higher carbohydrate content.
Low Carbohydrates vegetables are generally above the ground crops such as Cucumber, Asparagus, green leafy vegetables, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Brussel Sprouts, onions etc
So what is the problem with Carbs?
In my opinion the only problem is one of balance, ideally we want to get most of our carbohydrates from the complex spectrum. This is because a diet consisting mainly of refined/simple carbohydrates which release glucose quickly can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels. These foods give us us what is known as a sugar rush or a buzz of energy but soon leave us feeling tired as energy levels dip. This leads us to eat more which can lead to weight gain.
The key to having a balanced blood sugar profile (especially for non-diabetics) is to eat complex carbohydrates which release glucose gradually, providing us with a steady stream of energy rather than a buzz. Also to eat at regular intervals throughout the day (every 3-4 hours) and to have small amounts of protein with every meal and snack as proteins help slow down the stomach emptying time therefore slowing down the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream.
So now that we’ve looked at Carbohydrates, lets look at a simple recipe which uses a vegetable with a lower carb content to make a special kind of noodles. 🙂
Today I will be sharing a low carbohydrate alternative to pasta/noodles called Zoodles.
You will need – Serves 1-2
- 1 Zucchini/Courgette
- 1 Red Chilli
- 1 Cup diced cooked chicken
- 1/2 tbs Fresh root ginger
- 1 garlic clove
- Salt to taste
- Spice of choice – Optional depending on whether or not your chicken is spiced
- 1 tbs cooking oil
1) Grate Zucchini/Courgette lengthways or use a spiralizer and set aside
2) Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, ginger and chilli
2) Add chicken and spices if using, stir for a few minutes until hot.
3) Add zucchini and stir for a minute or two and there you have it. 🙂
Happy Cooking at Eating! 🙂