Low carb diet is it really the answer?

The Good Life Letter

Sunday 16th October 2011

  • The low carb diet debate
  • How honey is buzzing naturally full of good carbs
  • Nuts, seeds & berries - not just for birds!

At my age I'm often misunderstood...I get used to it.

Being the complex and irascible character that I am can sometimes lead to a period of being ostracised.

To be honest with you there are times when I actually enjoy it!
But, dear reader, I need to make clear the fact that I am not advocating the low carb diet approach.

Far from it, some of my favourite things are packed with them...I do, however, take exception to the overuse of bad carbohydrates in food.
When I say bad carbohydrates though, I don't mean you need to put them on the naughty step or sit them in a corner in a dunce's hat. No foods are really that bad as part of a balanced diet. I simply mean they're tougher for the body to break down, digest and absorb nutrients from.

On Friday I told you my reasons for wanting our health leaders to consider the damage an over reliance on carbs has to our bodies.
What seems to be the case, judging by my mailbox, is that some of you think I don't want these important compounds to pass my lips.

Mrs Holton of Oxford asks whether I have become schizophrenic;

"Ray, how can you be extolling the virtues of honey one week then telling us carbohydrates are bad for us the next. It's no wonder us old folk are confused".

Well for the benefit of Mrs Holton and a few others let me make this expressly clear.

I fundamentally believe in a balanced diet, with the best possible source of all the important nutrients and the tastiest way of putting them together.

And that includes the combined carbon, hydrogen and oxygen energy rich products.

There are good sources and bad ones though, and this is where care needs to be taken.

For instance, honey is packed full of carbohydrates in the form of sugars - but these are natural fruit and nectar sourced ones, fructose, glucose, maltose & sucrose being the principal ones.

The way they are made available to the body is key to their effect. You see, being simple sugars they do not deplete the stores of minerals to metabolise them (this is mainly magnesium) and do not cause a surge in blood sugar immediately after consumption.

Both of these effects are common in the consumption of sugar syrup and other types of refined & artificial sugars - which is inherently bad for you.

I am sure that the many Good Life readers who have recently bought their Honey for Health  will agree with me - this is no bad way to get your carbohydrates and be healthy in the process.

But how can you be sure you are getting good stuff from other foods?
Getting the best carbohydrates around

Put simply, the best thing you can do is avoid anything processed, manufactured or refined, making sure you always get as close to the source as possible with your food.

By including a bit of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet will do wonders for healthy consumption (and help with your 5 a day!), but your real champions will always be grain, pulses and nuts.

Here are my tips for getting a bellyful of good carbohydrates;

  • 1) Choose wholegrain breads where all of the grain is used rather than just the flour and gluten. These breads are fantastic for sandwiches and toast; try to find those with a few extra seeds in as well, like pumpkin, sunflower or sesame. Warm a loaf in the oven and use to dunk into your favourite autumnal soup... believe me it's one of life's most simple yet delicious delights!
    2) Don't let the Scots keep all the good stuff for themselves, make sure you start your day with a bowl of porridge. I adore pinhead oatmeal which is soaked overnight then cooked in a little water and finished with a drop of milk and a dollop of honey. If that doesn't set you up for your day nothing will.
    3) White rice is no friend to western diets, so try to use brown or wild rice with your curries or chillies. Adopting whole grains like bulgar wheat, whole grain couscous and triticale are so much better for you than potatoes or white rice which tend to dump their carbohydrates into the blood stream in a rush, rather than slowly as the whole grains do.
    4) Drinks often have high sugar levels in them. Obviously anything sweet and fizzy is to be avoided but also try to eat fresh fruit rather than just the juice, which means you're getting the fibre as well. For those who enjoy an evening (or mid afternoon whilst catching up on Midsomer Murders) tipple, opt for red wine rather than white as it has a much lower sugar content. Even the flintiest dry Chablis has more sugar per glass than an equivalently alcoholic Gammay.
    5) Get your beans in! Pulses are great sources of natural carbohydrates plus are packed with protein and can be added to curries (lentils & peas), stews (Borlotti and butter beans) and even salads (Kidney and Black beans) for an energy boost anytime.

So, to those of you who might have thought I had lost my marbles I apologise, but rest assured I am still the same old misery I always was.

Yours, as always



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