Healthy Plate: Carbohydrates

This last post in this series will centre on the last 1/4 of the healthy plate – Carbohydrates (or Carbs for short)

what and why?

In short, carbohydrates are macronutrients. Just like protein and fats. Meaning we need them in large amounts (measured in grams) as opposed to micronutrients like vitamins and minerals which we need in small amounts (mili- or micrograms).

Carbohydrates are made up of chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (CHO). These long chains eventually get broken down into glucose (simplest form of sugar) for your body to use or store.

Good examples of carbs come from the food groups of:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables (esp the starchy ones)
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Carbohydrates are important for:

  • Energy
  • Providing vitamins, minerals and fibre
  • Stable blood glucose
  • Building and maintaining muscle
  • Sparing protein breakdown and preventing ketosis
  • Mucus production and healthy mucus membranes

How much?

Everyone’s daily needs differ but a good guideline to start is one-quarter of your plate.

It is important to note that eating too much will lead to weight gain, especially if you aren’t active so your body does not burn through the glucose.

Eating too little will put your body into ketosis – which may not be a good thing in the long run because its a state of stress.

Therefore, you should adjust your intake to your daily needs.

*Also, do note that carbohydrates should not be what makes you feel full after a meal. That is the job of protein. If you find yourself hungry soon after your meal, you probably did not have enough protein at that meal.

‘Good’ vs ‘bad’ carbs

‘Good’ carbs (Healthier choice)

  • usually referred to as ‘Complex’ Carbohydrates
  • less ‘refined’ or processed, whole foods
  • contain more fibre, vitamins, minerals & phytonutrients
  • digest slower
  • release energy gradually (sustainable energy)
  • doesn’t spike and crash blood glucose

Examples (in order of recommendation):

  1. Starchy root vegetables like sweet potato, yams/taro, tapioca
  2. Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, beans
  3. Starchier vegetables like pumplin/squash, carrots
  4. Fruits like banana, papaya, apples, kiwis, berries
  5. Non-starchy vegetables like beets, greens, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
  6. Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  7. Wholegrains, pseudo grains and their (less processed) products like rolled oats/spelt, brown/red/black rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat

‘Bad’ Unhealthy Carbs:

  • convert to sugar quickly
  • easily stored as fats if not used up by physical activity
  • spikes blood glucose (‘sugar high’)
  • followed by a rapid drop thereafter (‘sugar crash’)
  • roller coaster of highs and lows throughout the day
  • processing of carbs strips nutrients like vitamins and minerals and often adds chemical additives
  • creates insulin resistance and inflammation in the long term
  • higher risks for developing metabolic diseases, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, mood disorders, cancer, etc

Examples:

  • “White” or “Refined” products like white flour, white sugar, white rice, white noodles/pasta, white bread
  • Pastries and baked products like croissants, muffins, scones, waffles, pancakes, cakes, cookies, macaroons
  • French fries, soft drinks (soda), sweets, ice-cream, bubble tea, energy drinks, sports drinks
  • Processed/unnatural/man-made/artificial/adulterated foods like breakfast cereals, energy bars, ready to eat meals, chips and snacks, sauces, dressings, syrups, etc

It is important to take these in context of your life and environment.

White rice is not necessarily bad if you are an active person (with no insulin resistance / diabetes) and eat according to your needs.

White rice is still better than pastries and cakes loaded with sugar.

Sometimes it’s about making the ‘healthier choice’ as everything lies on a continuum from best > good > bad > worse.

Proper Preparation of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds

If you choose to eat whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, soaking/sprouting these is required. \

Our ancestors found this out through trial and error and were doing this for thousands of years.

Today however, this traditional wisdom has been mostly forgotten in our society of convenience.

Why do we need to prepare these foods before consuming?

Answer: Anti-nutrients

These are compounds that plants create to ward off predators so they can propagate their seeds and ensure their survival.

Anti-nutrients like phytates bind to minerals like calcium and iron while others may lower your stomach acid’s ability to break down proteins.

Source: Petroski & Minich, 2020 [6]

Soaking or sprouting these also increases nutrient bioavailability – meaning you can absorb more nutrients without the negative consequences from the anti-nutrients.

“The process of germination not only produces vitamin C but also changes the composition of grains and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Carotene increases dramatically–sometimes eightfold. Even more important, sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains [and in legumes and seeds] that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; sprouting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds. These inhibitors can neutralize our own precious enzymes in the digestive tract…Finally, numerous enzymes that help digestion are produced during the germination process.”

Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

How?

Source: Petroski & Minich, 2020 [6]

It is as simple as soaking your grains/legumes/nuts/seeds in a bowl of water with some vinegar overnight (nuts and seeds use salt). About 1 tablespoon of vinegar or salt to 1 cup of water.

Then pour away the water and give them a good rinse before cooking (for nuts and seeds you can consume straight or dehydrate/toast).

To take it one step further, you can try sprouting (see picture below).

It really doesn’t take much time to do that and the benefits are far-reaching.

LEAF TO LIFE HOLISTIC VITALITY DIET

All our clients receive a copy of the Holistic Vitality Diet after their first appointment.

At our clinic, we have the Leaf to Life Holistic Vitality Diet for preventing disease and healthy aging.

If you’re interested to learn more, send your enquires to: Contact us (leaftolife.com.sg)

Thanks for reading. Please share this with anyone whom might benefit.

Blessings
Jahn
🕊

References and Links

  1. Juanique Roney (@gutsy_mom) • Instagram photos and videos
  2. Functional Amino Acids in Growth, Reproduction, and Health | Advances in Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
  3. Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. Figure 2. ​Protein sources. ​Retrieved from Fitness Pro. (fitnessprollc.blogspot.com)
  5. Contact us (leaftolife.com.sg)
  6. Petroski, W., & Minich, D. M. (2020). Is There Such a Thing as “Anti-Nutrients”? A Narrative Review of Perceived Problematic Plant Compounds. Nutrients, 12(10), 2929. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12102929

Posts in this #Nutrition series:

  1. Planning a Healthy Plate
  2. Healthy Plate: Vegetables
  3. Healthy Plate: Protein

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