Four essential food groups for the conscious eater
The Energy givers. Mostly in fruits, vegetables, legumes and milk products. The main source of blood glucose, which fuels all the cells.
Simple carbohydrates, are simple sugar molecules that include fructose (fruit sugars), sucrose (common sugars) and lactose (milk sugar).
Complex carbohydrates are sugar molecules strung together in complex chains that form fibre and starches, and include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Both simple and complex carbohydrates are converted into glucose and used immediately for energy and the remainder stored in the liver for future use. Excess glucose is stored as body fat.
The Carbohydrate Fat Factor - The Glycemic Index (GI): It’s all about what foods/carbohydrates keep your blood sugar stable, not whether a food is more or less fattening. The glycemic index measures how much your blood sugar rises after eating a carbohydrate. Refined carbohydrates (white breads) and processed foods and even a number of natural foods have a high glycemic indices, releasing sugar quickly into the bloodstream causing glucose spikes. After the glucose is quickly dispersed, blood sugar dramatically falls, and you naturally seek a way to rapidly raise the blood sugar level again by eating yet another high GI food, the ‘quick fix’ and on it goes in classic binge fashion.
Most whole foods and those rich in proteins, vegetables and fruits have a low glycemic index, releasing sugar gradually into the bloodstream and maintaining steady glucose and insulin levels. You feel full and sustained far longer; hunger pangs and binging diminish. Dozens of glycemic indexes are available on the web, but it is easier to simply switch the known highs with the known lows and bypass the math. There are some surprises: potatoes and brown rice have high GIs.
Having said that, the occasional but not overly excessive intake of high glycemic sugary foods, including chocolate and sweets does well for many people over the long term, as abstaining altogether can backfire. For those seeking a sugar-cane free additive, substitutes also abound. Stevia, blue agave and even black strap molasses can ease a sugar free transition into a healthier low glycemic diet.
Food is a source not only of nourishment, but joy and comfort as well which an overly bland diet does not always supply. As always, moderation is the golden key. As is remarked in Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 8, I will speak ill of so-called healthy food that has no sugar, no salt, no oil and no taste. Too much sugar is not good, I agree. But food also has to give the mind joy.
Fiber, formerly known as ‘roughage’ is a much needed form of complex carbohydrate. As plant matter that is resistant to digestive enzymes, it retains water, smoothly passing through the body and cleaning the gastrointestinal track as it does so. Fiber also absorbs excess cholesterol elements and sweeps them out of the system, lowering blood cholesterol levels at same time.
Note: In addition to providing carbohydrate fuel and fiber, fruits and vegetables are full of all kinds of nutrients. The healthiest fruits and vegetables are generally the most colourful. Food pigments contain higher concentrations of carotenes, some of nature’s most powerful antioxidents. the free radical scavengers: carrots, red, yellow and green peppers, yellow, orange and green foods like zuchhini, squashes, yams, avocado, dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard greens, spinach, beets, tomatoes. Among fruits, blueberries have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidents.