How carbs fit into a healthy diet | The New Times

With a second lockdown upon us, many people may get comfortable with an unhealthy lifestyle, from poor eating habits to lack of physical activity.

Nutritionists say despite the situation we are in, it’s still important to stick to the right diet, and that one of the many things to do as staying healthy is concerned, is sticking to the right carb diet.

 

Studies show that avoiding refined carbs or carbohydrates is important because they have been stripped of almost all fibre, vitamins, and minerals. For this reason, they can be considered as “empty” calories.

 

Apart from them being quickly digested, they as well have a high glycaemic index, which means that they can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals; therefore, avoiding this is important.

 

What to put into consideration

Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Nutrition Cabinet, a clinic in Kigali that deals with diet, physical wellness, and lifestyle, says one doesn’t have to ditch all carbs, in fact, he says it’s important that one ensures they take in carbohydrates.

“When we talk about carbs,” he says, “people typically think of sweets, doughnuts, bread, or refined products.” He says this is not true because carbohydrates include a huge variety of foods.

“In actual fact, almost all plant foods fall into the carbs category. They are good foods that are packed with nutrients, fibre, and the all-important phytochemicals,” he says.

Kamanzi says this is what is called ‘the right carbs’ since they are low-glycaemic and they don’t spike your blood sugar or insulin.

Understanding carbs

Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association, says carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients found in food —the other two are protein and fat.

All three are nutrients our body needs and uses to thrive.

To put them into categories, there are refined or simple carbs often called “bad carbs”, and then complex carbs which are considered “good carbs”.

Refined carbs include; white bread, white rice, white pasta, pizza, cakes, and pastries, to name a few, which have been stripped of their nutrients and fibre.

“These simple carbs are easy to digest, eating too many can lead to huge spikes in our blood sugar and also not good to our health,” he says.

What to focus on

Kamanzi says one can opt for whole-grain bread, brown rice, among other cereals that are nutritious since they provide B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, antioxidants, and fibre.

 “Fresh produce can be a healthier carbohydrate option, especially for someone who is trying to lose weight,” he says.

These precious complex carbs are energy-boosting and they contain three or more sugars (polysaccharides) and take longer for our bodies to break down, so they give us that slow-release energy— the perfect fuel for our modern-day lives.

Musengimana says whole grains and other complex carbs are also high in fibre, which keeps our digestive system healthy. 

Since such carbohydrates have not been refined, they also keep all of their nutrients, so our bodies reap the rewards of all those natural antioxidants, B vitamins and other nutrients.

In fact, Musengimana says, it has been established that complex carbs can actually help us to maintain healthy body weight, reduce LDL (bad cholesterol), and also cut our risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, too.

The fibre in the good carbs also, in turn, feeds the friendly flora in the gut (microbiome) supporting a healthy digestive tract.

Nutritionists say when you focus on these low-glycaemic plant foods, your weight starts to stabilise, you feel better without the sugar crashes and you reduce your risk for numerous diseases.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com