All foods belong to different categories. Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. Carbohydrates however, are broken down further into 3 sub categories. Complex, Simplex and Refined.
Carbohydrates should account for approximately 60% of our meals. Sweets, chocolates, biscuits, bread, pasta, cereals, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, bananas and apples are all types of carbohydrates.
They all fall into one of the above categories. However, there is a slightly grey area when looking at the G.I. value of the foods. The staple foods, (breads, pastas, rice etc) fall in the mid-high section of the GI scale.
The Glycemic Index (G.I.) is the medical term used to refer to how much blood sugar is released into our blood stream depending on the type of food eaten. For a better understanding, imagine a scale of 1-100. For example, Celery being at the ‘0’ end and a bowl of sugar being at the ‘100’ end of the scale. So we can see that we should opt for food that is around 55 or less when following such healthy eating plans – the middle of the scale.
For example, a white, French bread loaf would be high up on the G.I index, around 95 plus, whereas a stone ground, wholemeal loaf would fall around 65. So you can see, a simple, but small change in our selection of foods, can affect the ways in which our bodies digest and produce blood sugar. Remember, all foods, no matter if they are good or bad, high or low in the GI index, too much of any foods (more than your calorific requirements) will turn the excess to fat and unwanted extra weight – everything has calories!
A lot of our staple foods will fall between the ranges of approximately 50-75, which cannot be avoided. For example, roti, bread, and rice. However, with looking for substitutes and eating lower GI foods with the slightly higher ones will help in slowing down the overall release of blood sugar. Alternatives to the above would be, making rotis from brown, whole grain flours, buying/making bread from stone ground, wholemeal flour or buying basmati brown rice instead of white rice.
What has to be avoided are the sudden sugar rushes, i.e. eating a chocolate bar, cakes, and biscuits on their own like a snack. If these must be eaten, try and have them at the end of your meal and as part of that meal. This helps in unnecessary insulin release.
All proteins contain 4 calories per gram as do all carbohydrates. Fats contain more than double at 9 calories per gram. Alcohol, however, contains 7 calories per ml.
Protein helps slow down the digestive process, which is the key ingredient in keeping satiety in check. However, too much of any amount of food or food groups all have calories and any excess will be stored as fat.
Proteins play a very important role within our bodies of helping build our cells/hormones and neurotransmitters. A good variety of proteins (animal sources such as fish, meat, chicken, eggs), gives us a good variety of amino acids, the essential part in helping build our own tissue muscle.
Vegetarians and vegans have to be more careful about their intake of proteins and should ensure that wide varieties (as applicable – dairy products, soya, nuts and seeds and pulses) are consumed along with supplements.
The bad fats or saturated fats are easier to recognise as they are from animal sources such as butter and hard cheese. These are already solid at room temperature. Some are considered bad sources – such as processed cheese and margarine and some are considered good sources – such as nuts and some hard cheeses.
Some oils are known to be better for your heart and cholesterol levels. Olive oil is used extensively through the Mediterranean countries, where heart disease is amongst the lowest. The 2 exceptions are the tropical oils. Palm oil and coconut oil. They may sound healthy and natural, but they are the only 2 vegetable oils that are actually saturated fats. There is still a lot of debate concerning good and bad oils.
Essential oils or ‘Omega 3′ are those that are found in fish such as salmon and should be eaten as regularly as possible – perhaps 2-3 times per week.