As you will recall from the ‘Eatwell plate’, carbohydrates should make up about one third of the food we eat. Carbohydrates can either be starchy or sugary. Starchy carbohydrates provide us with energy, fibre and a variety of nutrients, including B vitamins.
It is a common misconception that carbohydrates are ‘fattening’, however it is the portion size, cooking methods and added fats that are important determinants of calorie content. For example, adding full fat butter or a creamy cheesy sauce to pasta will add calories and saturated fat.
Starchy foods provide fibre and by choosing high fibre varieties such as the following you can help met your daily fibre requirements. These options include granary/wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, brown rice and pasta. These provide insoluble fibre which maintains bowel health and prevents constipation. When increasing fibre in the diet is important to ensure a sufficient fluid intake and any increases in fibre should be gradual.
Carbohydrates affect your blood sugars in different ways. This concept is described as the Glycaemic Index or GI. This is a ranking of blood sugars on how they affect the blood sugar levels. High GI foods are more rapidly digested in the body and release sugars into the blood stream more quickly. These foods include white bread, cornflakes, dates, instant white rice. Low GI foods are digested and absorbed at a slower rate and hence have less of an impact on blood sugar levels. This is important in controlling appetite, maintaining satiety and controlling weight. Lower GI foods include basmati rice, fruit, pasta, beans, lentils and granary bread. Try to include more of these foods throughout the day. For more detailed information refer to
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy fuel and hence low carbohydrate diets (such as Atkins, South Beach diets) are not encouraged for long term health. For weight management it is important to address the portion size of the carbohydrate food and to aim to include lower GI foods. High GI foods have an important role in sports nutrition and by choosing a high GI food in the 30 minutes immediately after exercise; you can aid your muscle glycogen replenishment.