Sugar and Fibre: Carbohydrates

One question that I seem to get asked again and again is the carb and sugar question. That carbohydrates are our mortal enemy and should be avoided at all costs. This is not strictly true and the true answer to this question can be found by considering a few things…

When you say ‘carbs’, I’m sure 99% of people think of what is called the refined carbs. Including but not limited to: white bread, white pasta, and white rice. These are sources of dietary carbohydrate which is the primary source of energy in the body (glucose). However, because these foods are highly processed they have had all the naturally occurring fibre stripped away leaving you with just the ‘sugar’ or carbohydrate part.

Because there is no fibre present in these refined carbohydrate sources, they are digested very quickly, and the sugar moves very quickly into the bloodstream. Once this happens you get a release of the ‘sugar storing’ hormone insulin. Which causes the sugar to move into the cells of the body, where it is used for energy. This is where the concept of a ‘sugar spike’ comes from.

A high content of fibre in your carbohydrate sources will slow this whole process down and prevent the ‘sugar spike’ from occurring. So, choosing carbohydrate sources that come from whole foods such as grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice) or foods like sweet potato and other starchy vegetables may still be a ‘carbohydrate’ source but they will keep you feeling satisfied and energised for much longer.

The same rule applies to fruit, many people fear fruit due to the high sugar content, many fruits are an excellent source of micronutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene and flavonoids; that research has shown could play an important role in reducing chronic diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Fruit is full of fibre, which not only helps keep your digestive system healthy and moving properly, but helps regulate the release of the sugar and again, stops that ‘sugar spike’.

If you are still concerned about fruit sugar, then opt for berries which have a lower glycaemic index. Or consume alongside nuts or full-fat natural yogurt (or alternatives like coconut yogurt), as these also help regulate the sugar release because of the protein and fat they contain. Avoid shop bought, pasteurised juices and smoothies and if you are making your own juice at home, then ensure that there are more vegetables (i.e. carrots, cucumber, kale or beetroot are good juicers!) as when you juice, the fibre is removed and this helps keep the sugar content low!

If you can find the food in nature, it is a whole food. So consuming more of these and avoiding man-made foods (with an ingredients list!) should keep you on the right track.