Carbs Carbs Carbs

-they are actually good for you-

· Lifestyle,Food

Dear Reader,

Since its almost lunchtime, I thought to throw in this post on why carbohydrates (carbs) are your friends. Bare with me because it might have a bit of science.

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Many people fear carbs/starch (carbs) because it’s perceived to increase your weight. Well, carbohydrates can add some extra inches around our waist line; but in this post, I'll share with you a few tips on how to keep your meal balanced without cutting out the carbs! I love my carbs but I never want to stop eating them; especially pilau rice and grilled sweet potatoes, they are so good! But who said you can’t enjoy healthy carbs? My tip is to know the right carbs for you. Major key alert.

Have you ever heard of the “Food Pyramid”? It’s a dietary model, like the “Eat-Well Plate” which I wrote about, and it also acts as a cool tool to help you make healthy choices. Each food group has its place in the pyramid and you can determine the best portions to eat for each of those groups. Just like a business model pyramid, the foods at the bottom of the pyramid, are those that we should be investing in and eating in lump sum while those are the top are to be taken in moderation.

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Just like you, I wondered what in the world the Food Pyramid was. Was it ever that deep? :/ and was it ever taught in any of our biology or science classes? I was asleep half of the time anyway but I digress! With my love for history, I jumped right into the research and found that it was actually conceptualized in the 1970’s when Sweden was gripped by high food prices.

The government then tasked The Socialstyrelsen (National Board of Health and Welfare) to come up with a way to help the situation. In response to this, they came up with “basic” and “supplementary” foods. Basic foods were those considered essential to a person’s well-being and supplementary foods were foods that provided vitamins and minerals that basic foods did not; these are the ones we need! However, Anna Britt Agnsäter who at the time worked for a grocery co operative, introduced a triangular model (the food pyramid) that visualized the healthy portions of each food group.

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Anna Britt Agnsäter

The basic foods at the top (sweets, fats & oil) turned out to be more expensive than supplementary foods at the bottom. Which goes back to my post on healthy options and how they are much cheaper. I don't know about you, but I tend to get sleepy in Nairobi traffic especially after a busy day in the office and an intense leg day session at the gym. I always need some fruit to keep me awake. I would rather buy a banana from the traffic vendors which costs 10 Kshs as opposed to the crisps which cost 50- 100 Kshs. So, you see how healthy options are friendly to your wallet.

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Back to carbs now. Most of us equate carbs with bread and pasta, but you can also find them in dairy products, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, sugary foods and sweets. The food pyramid indicates that carbs occupy the largest section; which means they are super important in our diet. We need carbs in our meals, but the right carbs are definitely the complex ones! Our bodies are like cars; they cannot run on empty and will perform at their optimum when properly fueled, quite literally. To simplify this, I’ll show you the different types of carbs I try to include in my meals.

There are two main types of carbohydrates:- Simple and Complex

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a) Simple Carbs : these guys are not so friendly to your body or teeth

They are basically broken down quickly, that’s why they are called simple. They are found in processed and refined sugars such as candy, bread, pasta, white rice, soft drinks etc. We normally crave these more because they are the quickest source of energy. If you can, you are better off avoiding it altogether. But for most of us who like to live a little and have the occasional pastries and sodas, we have to moderate our intake. If you must have your pasta, rice and bread, choose the brown options. Don't do white.

Have you ever felt tired after eating? The trick is to choose foods that release energy more slowly and give you a gradual boost of long-lasting energy. Try to stay away from foods mainly made with white flour, sugar, or other simple carbohydrates that deliver an immediate, short-lived boost but ultimately leave you feeling sluggish and tired.

b) Complex carbs: these guys are your friends!

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These are the starchy and fiber-rich foods and include legumes as well. They are slow to digest so you’ll have a supply of energy for a longer period than simple carbs which are digested too fast! Fiber makes you feel fuller longer, which subsequently controls your appetite and soon enough, you’ll be saying bye bye to those unhealthy cravings! So go ahead and replace your white bread for brown :-)

If am doing wholefoods, I try to take more of wholegrain bread, whole oats, brown chapati, brown ugali, brown rice and brown pasta, among others. For the starchy vegetables I do sweet potatoes/ ngwashe (which are so good for your skin), arrow roots/ ndoma and pumpkin. The legumes would be beans, lentils, peas, soy beans, peanuts etc.

If you’re trying to cut carbs out of your diet, that’s still okay but please consult a nutritionist before you do. Your body needs carbs to work properly. If you suddenly restrict the amount of carbs you eat, you might experience dizziness, fatigue, and even weakness.

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"It’s best to follow a diet plan that focuses on healthy eating overall, rather than just restricting your carbs"- Wellness enthusiast

Yours in Wellness,