When you think of the term eat a rainbow, you often think about fruits and vegetables. Yet, equally important in the ‘eat a rainbow‘ everyday analogy, is about choosing the colour of your carbs!
There are two main areas of nutrition that I spend my life educating people about: the first is the importance of fat in our daily diets and the second is different types of carbohydrates and their role in weight management. We have mixed views on these foods, we have been misinformed for years, we are avoiding foods and reducing portion sizes, we are constantly changing our minds. Any discussion on weight loss cannot take place without an understanding of carbohydrates and their important role in the body. But what is equally important is the type of carbohydrates we choose. So where do we begin?
Carbohydrates are essential nutrients for the body, with their most important role being the supply of energy to our brain and body. This energy comes form the breakdown of the carbohydrate into simpler sugar that can be used for energy within the body. Many people who have been dieting for years, or have been part of group weight loss schemes, seem to be fearful of this important energy supply.
So what happens? The behaviour I find most common is that people tend to starve themselves of carbohydrates during the day so that they can lose weight. However, depriving your body of any major nutrient causes difficulties. With a shortage of carbohydrates, there is little ability to create energy in the body and often people feel tired all the time. In addition, the body craves the carbohydrates and so people end up with overwhelming cravings for sweet things or caffeine.
What to do? So rather than remove all carbohydrates from your diet, a simpler exercise might be controlling your portion and choosing wholegrain carbs over simpler carbs. The carbohydrates that we eat mostly on a day to day basis are starchy vegetables (root vegetables) and grains. When it comes to grains, think wheat (bread, cakes, scones etc), oats, rye, barley etc. If we choose grains that have been less refined, for example, brown rice over white rice, or brown bread over white bread, we can give our body the carbohydrates in needs but in a way the body can handle. Whole grain or ‘brown’ carbohydrates are generally more difficult to breakdown and the sugar from these foods gets released at a slow rate. This helps to keep you fuller for longer and helps to reduce those cravings over the course of the day.
An average portion of carbohydrates is 1-2 slices of bread, 1 cup of cooked rice or pasta, or 1-2 small/medium potatoes.
So it appears that weight loss is assisted by choosing wholegrain carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates in the correct portions. Perhaps giving them up completely is not the best idea after all!