Enemy of the state these days is sugar. It is, according to most nutritionists and doctors, what makes us sick and overweight.
Fat is no longer the culprit. OK, it’s still NOT a good idea to eat a lot of saturated fat from dairy food and meat, or fried food, but it is a very good idea indeed to eat a lot of essential fats from fish, nuts and seeds.
While all carbohydrates are converted into glucose (a type of sugar) by our bodies, and used as “fuel” for us to run on, some types of carbohydrates are obviously better than others.
The carbohydrates which were available to our early ancestors - vegetables, beans, pulses, fruit and later whole grains - are on the good side. The ones that modern man has come up with - refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and pasta plus all forms of concentrated sugar - are on the bad side.
But if you really want to lose weight in a healthy way and keep the weight off, it is worth digging deeper into the behaviours of carbohydrates.
GI versus GL
The best way to lose weight, and to stay healthy, is to keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel. And the best way to achieve this is by eating carbohydrates which slowly releases the sugar into to your body, and avoid those that goes straight into your blood stream causing your blood sugar to shoot up.
Your blood sugar level largely determines your appetite – when your blood sugar is low you feel hungry.
If you eat fast-releasing carbohydrates that causes your blood sugar to shoot up, it will inevitable come crashing down not long afterwards, leaving you feeling hungry quite quickly again.
And as your body only needs a certain amount of glucose to make the energy you run on, when a lot of glucose enters your blood stream the superfluous glucose is transported to your liver and stored as fat!
When you eat slow-releasing carbohydrates, on the other hand, the glucose in the food is released into your blood stream in an orderly fashion - slowly and steadily – keeping your blood sugar even and making you feel full for longer.
So how do you know what are the best carbohydrates to eat?
The glycemic index, GI for short, tells you if the carbohydrates in a certain food are slow-realising or fast-releasing, but it is only half the story.
What it doesn’t tell you is the amount of carbohydrates in the food. Most foods don’t consist of solely one thing. While meat is mostly protein and fat, other types of food contain a mixture of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
The glycemic load, GL for short, is a more precise measure – it tells you both how much carbohydrates there is the food, and whether the carbohydrates are slow or fast releasing.
Watermelon, for example, has a high GI score and is something to avoid if you are following a GI-diet. But watermelon contains very few carbohydrates – as little as 6% of a 120g slice – and has therefor got a low GL score.
Watermelon is also really antioxidant-rich - the flesh is high in betacarotene and vitamin C, while the seeds are high in vitamin E and in the antioxidant minerals zinc and selenium. I follow nutritionist Patrick Holford's advice and whizz the flesh and seeds together in a blender as the nutrients in the seeds are better absorbed by our bodies when ground up.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, have a low GI score. But sweet potatoes contain a lot of carbohydrates so they have a high GL score. While they are undoubtedly REALLY nutritious and a great thing to include in your diet, if you want to lose weight you should only eat a small amount of them.
Does this seem too fussy and complicated? There are people who have devised GL-diets. In Patrick Holford’s “The low GL-diet bible” he advises that to lose weight you should eat no more than 45 GL points per day.
I don’t count calories, and there is no way I will start to count GL points either. But I find it incredibly helpful to know what to eat more or less of.
To find out which carbohydrates are the best for your weight and your health, click on 1/9 - Low-GL Carbohydrates.
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