Take The Carb Quiz

by Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Author, Eating for Energy

 

Before reaching for another plate of pasta, ask yourself this question: Is this a good carb or bad carb? Contrary to what many believe, carbs are not necessarily the bad guys. It’s the type of carbohydrate that matters.

The goal is to understand what makes a carbohydrate healthy. After all, you need carbs in your diet as they provide energy. There are several ways to tell if the carbohydrate you are about to eat is healthy or not. Take this quick carb-testing quiz to see where you’re at in your carb-eating habits:

 

1. When you buy bread, you choose:
a) Whole wheat because you know that it has more nutrients than white bread.
b) Sprouted grain because you understand that these grains do not contain gluten, a protein that upsets many people’s digestive systems.

 

2. Shortly after eating a carbohydrate-based meal (ie. pasta bolognese) you feel:
a) A sudden craving for more carbohydrates or sugar and quickly satisfy this urge by seeking out a sweet treat (chocolate bar, pastry, candy that will give you an immediate sugar and energy boost)
b) Are satiated and satisfied for several hours.

 

3. Whenever you need a quick 3-6 hour energy boost, you go for:
a) Licorice for its quick sugar and good taste and its ability to sustain your energy because of its regulatory effects on blood sugar.
b) Fruit such an as apple because it provides better long term energy supply, fiber, and water.

 

4. To get your morning started, you choose:
a) A bagel, muffin, or donut – all refined carbs that quickly spike your blood sugar
b) Steel-cut oatmeal – a denser unrefined whole grain that is metabolized more slowly and keeps you satisfied long.

 

5. When browsing the grocery aisles for rice, you choose:
a) Instant white rice – another refined refined carb that spikes your blood sugar
b) Brown or wild rice – denser, unrefined, and more nutrient dense rice options that do not spike your blood sugar.

 

6. You’re an athletic individual and want a high-carbohydrate meal for an upcoming race, event, or game. You choose:
a) A big plate of pasta because you believe its high source of complex carbohydrates will provide your muscles with the necessary energy for your activity.
b) A bowl of brown rice with roasted sweet potato and steamed green veggies because you believe that this provides more vitamins and minerals as well as the energy for your activity.

 

Results

First off, all of the above answers are true facts. However, if you answered b’s for at least four of the questions, then you’re on the right track – keep doing what you are doing. If you answered mostly a’s, then consider the following to understand how you can eat better carbs; otherwise, you will continue to experience unpleasant “yo-yoing” blood sugar levels and predispose yourself to greater risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

 

Don’t Be a Refined Eater

The main concern with carbs is their impact on blood sugar. Refined carbs like white bread, white rice, sweets, and pastries feature grains (usually wheat) that have been stripped of their fibre and minerals. As a result, these foods are quickly dissolved in the body upon ingestion, causing a sharp rise in blood sugar. To restore proper blood sugar levels, your body responds by secreting the hormone insulin to remove and store this excess sugar. But then your blood sugar drops and you begin to crave more sugar. This becomes a vicious cycle, which can lead to hypoglycemia and eventually diabetes.

Consider choosing grain-based carbs that are dark, whole, and/or sprouted. These contain the inherent fibre and minerals your body needs. Because they have not been refined, and contain natural fibre, whole grains won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar.

 

When Possible, Choose Sprouted Grains

Grains are a great source of fibre and B vitamins so it’s important to choose the right ones. Selecting grains that do not contain gluten is one of the first steps. Gluten-free grains are easier to digest and include: quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat. Want to go one step further? Select wheat products that are sprouted. Sprouting eliminates the gluten in wheat-based products and enables your body to digest these grains without the digestive upset that can occur with other refined and processed grains.

 

Vegetables Are Your Best Friends

Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash and yams are some of your best sources of healthy carbohydrates. These are whole foods that contain an abundance of body-fortifying nutrients. Just don’t confuse French fries or potato chips with the natural whole potato. Fried foods are not healthy carbohydrates; the frying process (and resulting trans fats) renders these carbs dietary disasters.

 

Did You Know…

That it is generally better to eat carbohydrate-rich meals earlier in the day so that your body can expend this energy throughout the rest of the day. Likewise, it is helpful not to eat carbohydrate-rich meals late at night or just before going to bed since your body will not have had time to burn off their calories. As a result, they can be readily stored as fat!

At the end of the day, your goal should be to select foods that are as close to their original state as possible. Natural foods are definitely considered a healthier source of carbohydrates.

 

Reference:

Haas, E. and Levin, B. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Celestial Arts; Berkeley, CA. 2008.

 

 

 

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