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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

SWArticle: How to Select Healthier Carbs

<ently, the focus on cutting carbohydrates has increased in diet programs. Instead of deciding whether or not to eat carbs, it makes more sense to look at how each kind will affect the body. Your glycemic index provides an objective way to measure a food’s effect on your blood sugar level, particularly useful for making decisions about carbohydrates.

Blood sugar is important because when extra glucose is present in the bloodstream, it is either temporarily stored in your muscles as glycogen (short- term storage) or, if glycogen storage is full, stored as fat instead.

When comparing two foods with the same amount of calories, the food with a higher glycemic index will have a larger percentage stored as fat; the food that is lower in glycemic index will end up as sustained energy.

Dieting aside, consuming food with lower glycemic indexes may be healthier. When blood sugar rises quickly, the body has to work hard to bring it back under control. Usually, that means overcompensating and lowering blood sugar too much. In the short term, high or low blood sugar can cause symptoms such as tension, trouble concentrating, shakiness, dizziness, and mood swings. Eating carbohydrates with a low glycemic index aids blood sugar regulation since the carbohydrates are absorbed slowly, avoiding the quick ups and downs in blood sugar.

Choosing foods with low glycemic index can be counterintuitive. The general rule is to look for less processed foods. For example, rice cakes (GI=78) are worse than brown rice (GI=55). The following are a few other basic rules, as a start:

Overcooked carbohydrates tend to have a higher index: pasta that is al dente has a lower glycemic index than well-cooked pasta.

Whole grains have a lower index. Grains with the hull or skin still attached are absorbed slower. At the same time, do not be fooled by a name; whole wheat bread sounds good in theory, but the milling process eliminates any benefit over white bread.

Healthier sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, beans and food with lots of fiber, compared to bread, white potatoes, and flour-based products like baked goods.
For more information contact your SWAs or the Wellness Center.

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