Bland or Balanced Diet (Part II) : The art of substitution – Carbohydrates

So,  as mentioned in the first part of this blog , a balanced diet is composed of macro and micro nutrients that are essential for us to sustain and build our bodies. In order to maintain the right nutritional balance and a healthy lifestyle, we need to understand the requirements of these macro or micronutrients. Having said that, we often get too strict on ourselves trying to measure the “right amount” using a food scale, which we either find too difficult to stick to or too easy to give up.  People trying to lose or gain weight hence end up getting confused about the best ways to meet their standard goal, without giving up on their favourite food.baked breads

Picture Credits: Magnus S, Unsplash

 Well, the best way to stick to your diet goals is to master the art of substitution of  dietary ingredients. In this and my upcoming blogs, I will introduce you to this unique form of art which comes with knowing your food ingredients and choosing a healthier alternative for it. I will be dedicating one blog to introduce to you each of these macronutrients, where I will be talking about various food sources and their healthier alternatives. To start with, I will talk about one of the major macronutrients required by our body – carbohydrates!

Carbohydrates are one of the major ingredients of a balanced diet and are yet, often frowned upon, especially by those whose health goal is to lose weight.

Carbohydrates are one of the major ingredients of a balanced diet and are often frowned upon, especially by those whose health goal is to lose weight. The first thing that we however need to understand is that there isn’t a possible way to be healthy without carbohydrates! After all they generate the energy currency of our body known as ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), without which we would not even be able to live, let alone being healthy. However, consumption of heavy carbohydrates is not good either, especially if you have a job that requires long hours of sitting or if you have a rather sedentary lifestyle.

Carbohydrates can be of two types: a.) those that take a long time to breakdown – a.k.a slow-digesting carbohydrates, b.) those that can be easily broken down by our system – a.k.a fast-digesting carbs. Once digested, carbohydrates are converted into glucose for energy or are stored in our liver and muscle cells in the form of glycogen. Carbs that digest slowly releases glucose slowly in our blood and are known as low Glycemic Index (low GI) carbs. Such carbohydrates are often used by runners and marathon participants to provide a steady supply of energy/glucose for long runs. Examples include, brown rice, whole wheat bread, quinoa, tortillas, bulgur, legumes and beans. High GI carbs or fast digesting carbs include white rice, white bread, oats, pasta, banana and other fruits.

So, if white rice, white bread and tortillas have made it to this high GI list, what is wrong with their consumption and why are they criminalized as “bad” sources of carbs?

rice in bowl

Picture Credits: Pille-Riin Priske, Unsplash

So, if white rice, white bread and tortillas have made it to this high GI list, what is wrong with their consumption and why are they criminalized as “bad” sources of carbs? The answer is that, they have scarce amount of dietary fibres and minerals! Fibres form a major and essential part of a balanced diet, and helps in breaking down carbohydrates and increase the absorption of glucose by the our cells, to be further utilized. Brown rice, whole wheat, corn flour, oats, quinoa and bulgur, on the other hand make a good substitute for white rice and wheat based products. Their high fibre content make them easy to digest and provide slow and steady supply of energy. This indicates that you need to watch out when you consume them. If you prefer working out in mornings, fast digesting carbs can be consumed for breakfast.  Fast digesting carbs are good to get the sugar rushing in your blood when you need them – before or after workouts. Snacking on fast digesting carbs however can lead to weight gain in the long run. Consumption of low GI/slow-digesting carbs right before dinner will only help you grow that belly you had been always thinking about to transform into your abs!

You need to watch out when you consume them……if you prefer working out in mornings, fast digesting carbs can be consumed for breakfast….to get the sugar rushing in your blood when you need them – before or after workouts. Snacking on fast digesting carbs however can lead to weight gain in the long run. Consumption of low GI/slow-digesting carbs right before dinner will only help you grow that belly you had been always thinking about to transform into your abs! 

With fitness being into the limelight, consumers like us have increasingly started to enjoy and master the art of substitution. I just said that pasta is a fast digesting carb, however pasta is one of the favorite lunch recipe that is also quick to make. Pasta can not just be brown rice or whole wheat based, but we also have lentil and chickpea based pasta, which can substitute regular pasta. Similarly, quinoa, barley, bulgur and brown rice can substitute white rice in burritos, shrimp/chicken/beef-rice soups, fried rice or can be enjoyed with Thai or Indian curries.

My future blogs will be dedicated to the recipes of the dishes mentioned in this blog. Hence, to learn more about how to master the art of substitution, follow my page for more updates.

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