Can carbohydrates be part of a healthy diet? The answer is a resounding YES! In fact they are an important part of a healthy diet.There is, however, a vast spectrum when it comes to carbohydrates from unrefined whole grains like oats, barley and buckwheat to highly processed cakes and pastries. This means that not all carbohydrates are created equal and while we need a certain amount of carbohydrates the quality and the quantity is important. This makes it good to be a little fussy when choosing your everyday carbohydrates.
Unrefined and minimally processed whole grains come packed full of nutrients, including fibre, B group vitamins and many other minerals. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of fuel and some organs, in particular the brain, require carbohydrates for energy. They are also proven to assist in preventing Type 2 diabetes, bowel disease and certain types of cancer. High fiber carbohydrates are also strongly linked to a lower body weight and waist circumference. Consuming these types of carbohydrates regularly is an important part of a healthy diet.
Highly processed cakes, pastries and biscuits on the other hand, contain a lot of "energy" (another name for calories) and are high in saturated fat. These types of carbohydrates are also relatively nutrient poor, and are what I sometimes refer to as "empty" calories. While I don't consider any food inherently "evil", these are best treated as indulgent foods and enjoyed occasionally in small amounts.
Do carbohydrates cause weight gain? All carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars for absorption, and are stored in muscle tissue as chains of sugar molecules called glycogen. Carbohydrates are not stored as fat. When the body needs energy its first point of call is the sugar circulating in the blood stream and these chains of glycogen. What this means, is that if we supply our body with enough energy from carbohydrates, the remaining nutrients (e.g. fat) will go into storage.
Quality - Choosing unrefined whole grains is the best way to go. Oats, buckwheat, barley, whole meal pasta, brown rice, quinoa and starchy vegetables are all great choices. Experiment with different cooking methods and flavours. You will find that texture will vary with cooking time and method, and that, although these products don't have a strong flavour on their own, they often carry flavours well. When choosing cereals, breads, grains etc. look for the words "whole grain" and "whole meal". On the nutrient panel check the amount of fibre per 100g. Greater than 3g/100g is good, and greater than 7g/100g is excellent, although you will find some cereals contain up to 30-40g/100g. Read the ingredients list, can you pronounce the ingredients and do you know what they are? Ingredients are also listed in weight order, with the ingredient used in the largest amount first. For this reason look for products with sugar, salt and fat listed near the bottom if they are there at all.
Quantity - How much carbohydrate a person needs depends on the individual’s age, gender, activity level and muscle mass. Ideally once you know how much you are going to eat in a given day it’s beneficial to split it into serves and eat smaller amounts at intervals through the day. This has the smallest effect on blood sugar levels and allows them to stay as stable as possible through the day.
Buckwheat Breakfast Patties
This recipe is made from Buckwheat. Despite the name Buckwheat isn't actually a grain, technically it’s a seed closely related to rhubarb. The roasted version is often referred to as "Kasha," from which a traditional eastern European dish is made. Unroasted buckwheat has a soft, subtle flavour, while roasted buckwheat is more earthy and nutty.
Buckwheat is available all year round and is often served as an alternative to rice or porridge. It can also be ground into a flour from which it is possible to make muffins, pancakes, breads and much more.
Nutritionally, Buckwheat is high in protein, boasting a full complement of essential amino acids. It is rich in iron, zinc and selenium. These nutrients make it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. A good balance of essential healthy fats, Omega 3 and Omega 6, means buckwheat is beneficial in maintaining cardio-vascular health and immunity, and improving neural function. Fewer kilojoules and more fibre than rolled oats or brown rice make it an obvious choice for a healthy breakfast. Buckwheat is a great addition to any diet and being gluten free, it is safe for those who are gluten intolerant or have been diagnosed with coeliac disease.
Ingredients: (serves 1 for breakfast)
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