Carbohydrates: Quality Matters

The carbohydrates you chose to consume plays an integral role in your diet. Complex carbohydrates are a better choice than highly-refined carbohydrates. The healthiest sources are whole grains, quinoa, fruits, vegetables and beans, because these deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, while maintaining blood glucose homeostasis. Unhealthy sources include; white bread, pastries, soda, or refined foods that are easily digested and can contribute to weight gain and may promote diabetes and heart disease. Here are some tips when looking for the healthiest carbohydrates.

  • Look for “whole” as the first ingredient on the food label
  • Choose foods with a low glycemic Index (GI) score
  • Eat small amounts of carbohydrates at each meal
  • Choose whole fruit instead of juice
  • Pass on the potatoes, bring on the beans.

The glycemic index is a numeric ranking system for carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates that breakdown quickly are on the high end of the index and those that take longer to break down and digest are at the low end, which have a lower demand for insulin and provide better glycemic control.6 This is especially important for individuals with diabetes. In the table below are a list of low, medium, and high glycemic foods. Aim for lower glycemic index foods, which require less demand for insulin and promote blood glucose homeostasis.5

Figure 7. Glycemic Index.5
Glycemic Index

The gut mircobiome and its connection to overall health has been studied extensively in the last 10 years. Research shows a diet high in sugars and processed foods illect an inflammatory reaction that may alter healthy gut microbs, linked to autoimmune diseases, food intolerances, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and GI disturbances. To maintain a healthy microbiome, eat plenty of plant based proteins that include a good source of fiber for gut health.29

Some individuals will have carbohydrate restrictions due to food intolerances. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten, which is a combination of two proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. When consumed, these carbohydrates trigger inflammation in the duodenum of the small intestine causing villous atrophy, which in turn prevents the absorption of nutrients and symptoms of abdominal bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and vomitting.11