Why are carbs so important?

 

In order to lose weight a lot of people ban carbs from their diet. Why is that a bad idea?

Carbohydrates are a vital source of energy for our body : our brain, heart and lungs find their energy in the carbs we eat. The human body functions as a wood-burning boiler does : to burn something (fats), it regularly needs wood (carbs). Carbohydrates, more commonly referred to as sugars, provide us with energy. If we do not give any carbs to our body, it will use muscle proteins as a source of energy instead. In that case, our body reduces its muscle mass instead of its fat mass. That is why carbohydrates are an essential energy source for you, particularly if you practice a sport on a regular basis. It is estimated that an adequate daily intake of carbs is between 5 and 6 grams per kilo.

 

What is the glycemic index ? 

 

Such as for lipids and proteins, some sources of carbohydrates are better than others. When sugar reaches blood, it leads to an elevation of blood sugar levels also called glycemia peak. The amplitude of this peak can be measured by the glycemic index (GI).

The bigger the peak, the higher the GI. With a high GI, the elevation of blood sugar levels is sudden so carbs are digested rapidly in order to restore normal blood sugar levels thanks to insulin secretion. This leads to feeling tired, being hungry and storing fat.

The smaller the peak, the lower the GI. With a low or moderate GI, the elevation of blood sugar levels is slow and gradual so carbs are digested slowly.

A GI above 60 is considered as high, a GI between 59 and 40 is considered as moderate and a GI below 39 is considered as low.

Carbohydrates with low or moderate GI should be the preferred option.

 

Where to find carbs ?

 

  • Sugary products and processed food – Should be avoided as their GI is really high. Be careful, morning cereals for instance are filled with hidden sugars.
  • Cereals : pastas, rice, bread – Should be consumed moderately depending on their GI.
  • Fruits and vegetables – Are the best source of carbs and you can consume them at will (watch out, fruits are rich in sugar).

 

Here are some examples of GI

Food Glycemic Index
Apricots 30
Avocado 10
Beetroot 30
Mushrooms 15
Tofu (soy) 15
Yoghurt 35
Apple 35
Lentils 30
Pineaple 45
Banana 45
Peanut butter 40
Figs 45
Rice 50
Sushi 55
Spaghettis 55
Bread 90
Beer 110
Dates 70
Watermelon 75
Honey 60