Fibre-rich wholegrain breads and cereals offer protection against heart disease and diabetes. Photo: From Reader's Digest
Carbohydrates are the building blocks of a healthy diet. They fuel the body, which turns them into the basic currency of energy: glucose, or blood sugar. If you restrict your intake of carbohydrates, your body will turn a part of the protein and a little of the fat you eat into blood sugar—in effect, it will convert them into carbohydrates through a complicated, wasteful process. It’s more efficient and healthy to give your body the right amount of carbo- hydrates to begin with. Not too much, of course; too many kilojoules from carbohydrates, like too many kilojoules from fat or protein, can lead to weight gain. It’s very easy to overeat carbohydrate-based snacks like sweet and savoury biscuits.
So choose quality food sources. Wholegrain breads, brown rice and cereals have the nutritious germ and fibre-rich outer layers intact. Whole starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn and beans are rich in nutrients and fibre and low in sugar. Aim for three servings of wholegrain foods per day to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The Australian Heart Foundation backs this up with reports that dietary fibre, especially cereal fibre, is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
No one is yet sure how whole grains protect us, but we do know that they’re better for us than refined grains, such as white bread, which is stripped of most of its beneficial fibre as well as vitamin E, folate, B6 and other essential vitamins—all of which become especially important as we age. A diet low in complex carbo- hydrates and high in refined grains (such as white bread, white rice, pasta and sugar) increases your risk of developing diabetes.
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