A Diet for Better Energy by Ceileigh McKersie
Complex carbohydrates are key for sustained energy throughout the day, while too many sugary snacks can lead to energy crashes.
Carbohydrates in food have been misunderstood for years. Many people cut out carbohydrates in an attempt to be healthier or to lose weight, but carbohydrates are an essential element of a nutritious diet. Carbohydrates are important because they provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy and used for all bodily functions. The most important factor when it comes to choosing which carbohydrates to eat is the type of carbohydrate you choose. The amount of carbohydrates in a diet is less important that the type of carbohydrate that you are consuming.
Healthy carbohydrates are high in fibre while unhealthy carbohydrates are high in sugar. Unhealthy carbohydrates are most often foods that are processed and the fibre has been removed, resulting in the food being high in sugar and calories.
Healthy carbohydrates give you energy for physical activity, and the nutrition necessary for overall good health. Most healthy carbohydrates are very high in fibre which is beneficial to us because fibre helps us to lose weight, stay fuller for longer, lower cholesterol levels, help remove toxins, stabilise sugar levels and prevent constipation. Healthy carbohydrates most often have a low glycaemic index which means that they take longer for the body to break down (because of their high fibre and lack of processing) thereby leaving you feeling fuller for longer. For this reason most healthy, low GI carbohydrates are commonly high fibre foods as well as being extremely nutritious.
There are four basic sources of good, low GI carbohydrates:
1. Most vegetables
2. Most fresh fruit
3. Legumes, beans and nuts
4. Whole grain foods
Vegetables: many vegetables are high in complex carbohydrates but they contain a lot of fibre. Carbohydrates found in vegetables are healthy as they take a long time to break down such as peas, carrots, corn, potatoes and butternut. The less processed the vegetable the higher the nutritional value.
Fresh fruit: fruit is generally high in sugar, but the sugar in fruit is fructose which is different to the sugar we add to our tea which is sucrose. Fructose is unprocessed and can be easily digested. The skin and flesh from fruit is high in fibre making fruit highly beneficial for us. However fruit juice is mostly sugar so stay clear of fruit juice.
Legumes: are very nutritious carbohydrates because they are very high in fibre and protein. For this reason legumes such as beans, lentils, and split peas can be used to replace meat because of their high protein content.
Whole grain food: whole grain is very high in fibre, which is essential for healthy bodily functions. Oatmeal, brown rice, rye and whole wheat products are excellent sources of carbohydrates and should not be cut out of one’s diet. However any products that contain refined flour should be avoided at all cost as they spike your blood sugar resulting in energy crashes.
It can be hard to make the healthier choice, especially when you are desperate for something sweet to give you a boost of energy, but if you can avoid high sugary foods for at least 8 weeks you will no longer crave them, so why not give it a try and feel the difference.
Unhealthy carbohydrates are filled with empty calories that have no nutritional value. Examples of unhealthy carbohydrates include:
• All sweets and chocolates
• Cokes and fizzy drinks
• All cakes, pastries and puddings
• Breads and pastas
• Dried fruit • Processed foods such as chips, crisps etc.
Try to avoid these foods as much as possible.
Healthier options of carbohydrates include:
• Dairy (non-sweetened and low fat is the healthiest choice)
•Whole grains such as oats, rye and brown rice
• Legumes and beans
Nutritional Advisor and Life Coach.
BA, PGCE, DipNH (NH Inst.), DipLC (LC Inst.)