Yes- you can eat carbs. Here’s how.

Or how to choose a low glycemic index/glycemic load eating plan

Look closely at the grains in this coarse bread.      Photo courtesy of Ace Bakery

Look closely at the grains in this coarse bread. Photo courtesy of Ace Bakery

Smart carbs are simply too valuable  to shun. Besides contributing a wealth of disease-fighting nutrients, they make healthy eating a pleasure. Just ask anyone who has fallen off the low-carb bandwagon. They can likely tell you how unhappy they were without their favourite carbs.

But some carbohydrate-rich selections can also make you pretty miserable and can be costly to both your health and mood. Quickly digested ones can send blood sugar readings soaring and then lead to a crash. Short term consequences can be  a lack of energy and fatigue along with moodiness and irritability.

Over the long run, there can be a pretty hefty toll on health with an increased risk of including obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease,   certain cancers and  eye conditions such as macular degeneration.

Getting into the habit of substituting low glycemic index (GI) foods, those that enter the blood stream more slowly, for  high GI foods  lets you choose smart carbs on auto-pilot. If you do go for high GI selections,  don’t forget about portion sizes to keep your glycemic load (GL) down.  The GL takes into account how much of a high GI food you consume.

Here are some simple tips for low GI/GL eating :

•    Choose coarse grainy breads over light and  fluffy ones.  Even some whole grain breads, if the grains are ground to a smooth texture,  can have a high GI count. For example, cracked wheat bread will have a lower GI than a regular  whole wheat offering.

•    Intact or longer cooking grains have a lower GI than short-cooking or instant products.  Oats are a great example with large flake or rolled oats having a GI of about 50 while instant oatmeal clocks in at 83. When cooking low GI grains, prepare extra  and freeze in labelled pre-portioned containers.

•    Incorporate  pulses  (dried peas and beans)  – even in small amounts –  to meals.  Add these low GI, fibre-rich choices such as  lentils or beans to soups and salads or stews such as chili.  Whip up bean dips such as hummus or a chili spiced offering in a flash with your food processor or blender.

•    Cook pasta only until it’s al dente – meaning to the tooth. Overcooking sends the GI readings soaring while, believe it or not,  properly cooked pasta is a low GI food.

•    Enjoy whole fruits rather than their juices.

•    Don’t forget about balanced meals. Including small portions of lean protein and healthy fats with low GI carbs lowers the glycemic load of the meal.

For more tips, check out the info from the  recent International Scientific Consensus Summit on Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Glycemic Response.

Do you try to incorporate low glycemic index foods? What are your favourites?


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Categories: Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Yes- you can eat carbs. Here’s how.”

  1. Paula
    January 16, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Thank you for your ongoing wisdom when it comes to sensible lifelong eating . I got a copy of your Whole Foods book for Christmas. Much enjoyed. Keep the sensible articles coming. My New Years resolution. Health and happiness over thinness !!

  2. January 16, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    Thanks for your feedback, Paula! It encourages me to keep at it. Nutrition should be sensible but somehow many people prefer the sensational! And your New Year’s resolution is great- more people should strive for it!

  3. Beverley Tollofson
    July 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I just found your website and it’s now on my favourites. I include low glycemic index foods in my diet by eating beans, lentils, peas, whole grain bread with flax, rye bread and low sodium Triscuit cracks which I use with Humuus. I hope I’m on the right track. I found your website because I was looking for advise on ways to reduce my belly fat and though carbs were my problem. After reading your blog I know see that I need to include more protein in my diet. I eat very little. Your reference to CSPI in another blog was so interesting because I’ve been a subscriber for 15 years and have learned a lot. I will now include your blogs to my sources of information. Thanks!

  4. July 2, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    Thanks for your comments Beverley! It’s great to hear from you that I am on the road to accomplishing what I have set out to do – to enlighten my readers and help them sort through all the nutrition information out there so that they can make choices to benefit their health.

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