Carbohydrates – what you need to know
Carbohydrates are an important nutrient we need for fuel. Carbohydrates are found in grain foods like bread, breakfast cereal, rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa and cous cous, as well as fruit, potato and starchy vegetables, corn, dried beans and lentils, milk and yoghurt.
Our brain and muscles use carbohydrates as a source of energy, but most carbohydrate-rich foods also have other health benefits. Many are high in dietary fibre, which is important for keeping our digestive system healthy, and making us feel full and satisfied between meals. You can enjoy these foods each day, however, some are better than others.
One factor considered by Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) in selecting a quality carbohydrate food will be based on how quickly or slowly a carbohydrate food breaks down in the body. Those that digest slowly will give us longer lasting energy, and are called low glycaemic index or GI.
Low GI carbohydrates include:
- Fresh, canned or dried fruit
- Rice, bread, quinoa and pasta (preferably brown/whole grain varieties)
- Milk and yoghurt
- Whole grain breakfast cereals
- Legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils
There is plenty of confusion about carbohydrates. Many fad diets push the idea that carbohydrate foods should be cut out to lose weight. This is far from the truth, in fact, the they’re actually good for controlling our weight. There is strong evidence that eating whole grains is linked with lower body weight, a slimmer waist, and reduced risk of weight gain.
Carbohydrate foods like breads and cereals are also fuel to the probiotic (helpful) bacteria in our gut, so are important for a healthy digestive tract.