It’s likely you’ve heard a lot in the media about reducing carbohydrates in your diet, especially grains (paleo diet), so I’d like to teach you a little more about this subject so you can make your own decision about carbs in your diet.
Carbohydrates are found in many healthy and wholesome foods including vegetables, fruit, dairy, bread, rice, pasta, legumes/pulses, and nuts and seeds. Carbs are often given a bad name when they are used to refer to highly processed foods made from these products, such as sugary breakfast cereals, juices and soft drinks. So it’s important to think of the food groups in which they’re present and how much of each you need to meet your daily nutrient and energy requirements.
Dairy products include essential nutrients, particularly calcium, and are often a good source of protein. They contain low GI carbs such as lactose.
Vegetables and salads are generally reasonably low in carbs, except for the well-known starchy ones (potatoes, sweet potatoes). They also contain dietary fibre, natural anti-oxidants and phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals - and they are mostly low GI too.
Fruit is best consumed whole. It contains more dietary fibre than juice, excludes added sugars, preservatives and concentrates, and its nutrient levels are highest when fresh.
Meat, fish and poultry do not contain any carbs but they are important for protein, B vitamins, zinc, B12, iron and Omega 3s, just to name a few of their nutritional benefits. Try to choose unprocessed, leaner cuts of meat.
Legumes and pulses include all forms of beans and peas, and the amount of carbs they contain varies. They are usually high in dietary fibre and low GI and contain many vitamins and minerals.
Nuts and seeds are predominantly fats - 40-60 per cent - with 15-20 per cent carbs. Nuts are low GI and contain significant essential fatty acids, dietary fibre and vitamins and minerals.
Breads, cereals and grains encompass a wide variety of foods so it’s important to choose the least refined versions of these, such as whole oats, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, rye, barley and wheat. Look for “high in wholegrains” on product packaging rather than just “contains wholegrains”.
Finally, what is all the hype about quinoa? Well, unlike other common grains, quinoa belongs to a pseudo-cereal family along with amaranth and buckwheat. Quinoa originated in the Andes and was cultivated by the Inca people. Quinoa is low GI (53), high in protein (15 per cent) and provides all essential amino acids, including lysine. It has a high ratio of protein to carbs, is high in dietary fibre, is a source of many vitamins and minerals, is relatively low in fat and is gluten-free.