Car­bo­hy­drates fuel your brain and body

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - ERNIE SCHRAMAYR

Last week, I spoke about car­bo­hy­drates in gen­eral terms. My goal was to re­duce some of the anx­i­ety that peo­ple feel about eat­ing them. There are, lit­er­ally, peo­ple who are afraid of pota­toes!

Along with pro­teins and fats, car­bo­hy­drates are a macro nu­tri­ent group that plays a very im­por­tant role in hu­man nu­tri­tion. They are a ma­jor en­ergy source for both the brain and the body, they pro­vide us with much-needed fi­bre, and car­bo­hy­drate-con­tain­ing foods (such as whole fruits and whole grains) are packed with vi­ta­mins and min­er­als. The anx­i­ety for most peo­ple comes from the fear of carbs “mak­ing them fat.”

Overeat­ing any foods, in­clud­ing car­bo­hy­drates, can make one fat, but, in 30 years of fit­ness train­ing and sports, I have never met any­one who was fat from eat­ing too many pota­toes or bing­ing on too many ap­ples. This week, I want to be spe­cific and pro­vide a list of com­plex car­bo­hy­drates that you can add to your daily diet, in place of the more re­fined, pro­cessed va­ri­ety to in­crease your health, your en­ergy lev­els and help you in be­ing lean.

1. Oat­meal. A great food to have at break­fast to start your day, oats are unique in that they are good for re­plen­ish­ing en­ergy stores and for help­ing to sta­bi­lize blood sugar. Mix in some whey pro­tein be­fore eat­ing or have a bowl of oat­meal as a side dish with your eggs at break­fast along with some fruit for a com­plete meal.

2. Mixed berries. Blue­ber­ries, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries and black­ber­ries should all be a sta­ple food. They are loaded with nu­tri­tion and it is be­lieved they have prop­er­ties im­por­tant in the pre­ven­tion of cancer as well as di­a­betes. Low in calo­ries, berries also have less of an ef­fect on blood sugar than most other fruits.

3. Sweet pota­toes. Sweet pota­toes are packed with nu­tri­ents, fi­bre and an­tiox­i­dants. They pro­vide long-last­ing en­ergy and can help sta­bi­lize blood sugar when eaten as part of a com­plete meal with some pro­tein and healthy fat. Ex­per­i­ment with boil­ing, bak­ing or even mash­ing them in place of reg­u­lar white pota­toes.

4. Chick­peas and beans. Starchy car­bo­hy­drates, chick­peas and beans (kid­ney, pinto, navy, etc.) con­tain sig­nif­i­cant amounts of pro­tein and are very high in fi­bre. Ex­tremely ver­sa­tile, you can add them to a “meal” salad of veg­eta­bles and meat to pro­vide com­plex car­bo­hy­drates that will make you feel more sat­is­fied af­ter eat­ing. It’s also easy to add mixed canned beans to your favourite soups.

5. Rice. The in­ter­est­ing thing about rice is that there are so many dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties. Brown (whole grain) rice is higher in fi­bre and nu­tri­ents and also has a lower glycemic in­dex (it has less of an ef­fect on blood sugar) mak­ing it a bet­ter choice for some­one try­ing to lose weight. White rice, on the other hand, has a higher glycemic in­dex (mean­ing that it can raise blood sugar lev­els quickly). For an ath­lete who is try­ing to re­plen­ish glyco­gen stores af­ter hard train­ing ses­sions, white rice is ideal in mod­er­a­tion.

6. Colour­ful veg­eta­bles. Pep­pers, toma­toes and leafy green veg­eta­bles should be con­sumed in co­pi­ous amounts ev­ery sin­gle day. They pro­vide es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents, fi­bre, wa­ter and the va­ri­ety of colours means you are get­ting a wide ar­ray of vi­ta­mins and an­tiox­i­dants as­so­ci­ated with bet­ter blood sugar man­age­ment, less in­flam­ma­tion and in­creased en­ergy. Look for ways to add veg­gies to your meals by stuff­ing them in pitas and sand­wiches or have them raw as a snack.

Ul­ti­mately, it re­ally is about bal­ance. Plan your meals and snacks to con­tain pro­tein, fi­bre, starch and even healthy fat. At dif­fer­ent times, your pro­por­tions will change based on your en­ergy needs and on your health and fit­ness goals.

Re­mem­ber that all the four groups above are im­por­tant and that a diet plan that ex­cludes an en­tire macro nu­tri­ent cat­e­gory might bring about short term suc­cess, but, is un­likely to be sus­tain­able over a long du­ra­tion. If you can’t sus­tain it, you can’t main­tain it!

Med­i­cal ex­er­cise spe­cial­ist Ernie Schramayr, CPT, helps his clients man­age med­i­cal con­di­tions with ex­er­cise. You can fol­low him at ernies­fit­ness­ 905-741-7532 or ernies­fit­ness­


Sweet pota­toes are packed with nu­tri­ents, fi­bre and an­tiox­i­dants.

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