Carbohydrates, the strongest pillar of nutrition provide 4 calories of energy per gram and constitute 45-65% of our daily calorie intake. Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose, which is the primary energy source for our cells, muscles and brain. They ensure smooth functioning of the digestive tract and help with sound sleep. They are a component of most plant-based foods - cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Dairy products are the only animal source of carbohydrates.
Simple Carbohydrates - The Bad Carbs
Simple carbohydrates are called the bad carbs because they provide negligible nutritional value but significant calorific value, which result in weight gain and diabetes.
Simple carbs are high glycemic index and glycemic load foods, which result in a sudden, sharp increase in blood sugar levels.
Simple carbs are composed of easy-to-digest sugars, which provide instant energy followed by an energy slump creating peaks and valleys in the blood glucose levels.
Simple carbohydrates wreck your weight loss goals and create mayhem with glucose levels so they must be restricted.
Junk food comes under the category of simple carbs.
Other examples of simple carbs include:
Refined flour and its products like biscuits, white bread, pasta, cookies, bagels and so on.
Chocolates, sweets and candies
Cakes, pastries, muffins
Complex Carbohydrates - The Good Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are considered good carbohydrates because they are brimming with the goodness of carbohydrates.
They consist of a long chain of glucose units, which take more time to break down to release glucose.
They generally have a lower glycaemic index and glycaemic load as compared to simple carbohydrates, which ensures steady energy levels.
Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of fiber, which possesses hypo-cholesterolemic (cholesterol lowering) and hypo-glycemic (blood sugar lowering) properties.
Along with fiber, complex carbohydrates are packed with vitamins and minerals like B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
All types of whole grain cereals, millets, legumes and pulses and products made with them like whole-wheat pasta, whole grain bread.
All kinds of vegetables and fruits
Nuts and oilseeds
Choosing good carbohydrates over bad carbohydrates can be accomplished by making some simple substitutions such as eating whole grain bread instead of white bread or durum wheat pasta over white pasta.
Low Carb Diets
Low-carb diets restrict carbohydrate consumption by eliminating or limiting intake of cereals, pulses, fruits and starchy vegetables like potatoes for treating obesity or diabetes.
Low-carb diets are based on the principle that eliminating carbs lowers insulin levels, which forces the body to utilize stored fat for energy, leading to weight loss.
Approximately, 60-130 grams of carbohydrates can be eaten although the amount of carbohydrates varies with different low-carbohydrate diets. Very low-carb diets restrict carbohydrate intake to 60 grams or less per day. Generally, a low-carb diet focuses on eating meat, poultry, fish and eggs, dairy products and leafy vegetables.
Low-carb Diet Plan
Egg white and vegetable omelette
Grilled chicken or fish with vegetables
Chick pea or soya bean cutlet
Paneer or tofu with stir fry vegetables
Besan Chilla/ Moong dal Chilla (Savoury pancakes made of Bengal gram/green gram flour)
Leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, all types of gourds, broccoli, cauliflower, brinjal, onion, ladyfinger and mushroom can be eaten. Fruits like mangoes, banana, chickoo, custard apple, pineapple and grapes and dried fruits like apricots, dates and figs must be avoided.
Recipe - Chilla Chaat
Split green gram dhal (chilka dhal) - 1/4 cup
Ginger chopped - 1 tsp
Onion chopped - 1 medium
Green chillies chopped - 3
Skim milk curd - 1/2 cup
Tomatoes chopped - 2 medium
1. Soak green gram dhal in three cups of water for half an hour. Drain and grind with ginger, onion, green chillies and salt to a smooth batter.
2. Heat a griddle and grease it with oil. Spread a ladle full of batter to make a thin pancake.
3. Carefully flip over, drizzle it with a little oil and cook the other side well..
4. Once done , remove it from heat and place on a plate. Spread the tomatoes in between the chilla and fold it like a wrap. Turn the chilla. Spread curd and chutney and sprinkle some chaat masala. Serve hot.
Consequences of low-carb, high-protein and high-fat diet
Consuming meat, full-fat dairy products and fried fatty foods increase blood cholesterol levels, which put you at a risk of heart-related disorders.
Excessive protein intake leads to leaching out of calcium from the bones to maintain the acid-alkali balance in the body, which can result in osteoporosis and calcium oxalate stones.
Complex carbohydrates boost the levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep and mood. However, low levels of serotonin result in insomnia, mood swing, depression, halitosis (bad breath) and nausea.
Low fiber intake results in constipation and the risk of certain cancers as fiber binds carcinogens.
The Right Amount of Carbohydrates
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates should make up 45-65 % of your daily calorie intake.
If you eat 1,500 calories per day, you must eat 170-200 grams of carbohydrates daily.
In order to meet this requirement, you must eat 4-6 servings of cereals, 2 servings of pulses, 2 servings of fruits,1-2 servings of dairy products and 4-5 servings of vegetables.
Instead of going for the no-carb or low-carb diet, simply opt for the good carb diet, which unlocks the key to optimum health.