When it comes to weight loss, every magazine (including ours) has recommended complex carbohydrates (from foods such as whole grains and starchy vegetables) as key choices for diets. While most of us enjoy a good bowl of white rice every so often, our sedentary lifestyles that include a lot of time spent sitting at our desk and tapping away on our keyboards would mean we need to think harder about the foods we choose.
Is whole grains necessarily better than refined grains like white rice and white pasta? Read on for the low-down.
It’s all about GI
For diabetics, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a life-saving guide to what raises blood sugar levels. For the rest of us, it’s a guide to what makes us fatter, faster. In simple terms, this Index ranks all food on a scale from 0 to 100 according to how much they raise our blood sugar levels after consumption.
While GI seems complex, you only need to know one rule: The lower the GI Value, the less your blood sugar is elevated.
This is important because our bodies run on glucose, and almost everything we take in becomes sugar at the end of the day. So it’s not just about “not taking sugar”, but how fast the food ends up in our blood stream as sugar.
This is why a serving of white rice is like taking a load of sugar quickly into the bloodstream, while a complex carb like brown rice is said to give a more steady flow of sugar. Here’s the important part: If you don’t use up the sugar in your body, it’s converted into fat stores!
It’s complicated (to digest)
The relationship between low GI values and digestion is also interesting to look into! Most whole grains, like oatmeal, red/brown rice, quinoa and even barley, possess a low GI. They’re also almost always better for you.
Notice that most grain-based complex carbohydrates also keep you full for a longer time? Well, that’s because they’re harder to digest! The slower digestion causes a slower release of sugar into our bodies. These whole grains are also incidentally a great source of fiber, which also keeps you full for a longer period of time! This helps you take in less calories in the day, further aiding your weight loss.
There’s always an exception…
When you put your body through intense exercise, you need to feed your muscles to prevent loss of muscle. This is because your body no longer has enough sugar stores, and starts digging into muscles to keep itself going. We know that lean muscle mass helps to shred fat, so it is important that you sustain muscle while working off the fat. This is one of the few times that simple carbohydrates will help you in your weight loss journey.
Food For Thought
Generally, when it comes to weight loss, most experts would advocate lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. The combined benefits of steady blood sugar levels, high fibre and good mineral nutrient mix far outweigh the satisfaction that a simple carbohydrate meal gives you. Go for a good mix of grains and vegetables, plus lean meats like chicken breasts or lean beef cuts for best effect!
If you want to find out what food items have lower GI values, the International GI Database provides a comprehensive list of items and their GI values.
Above all, remember to keep your workouts hard and your food clean!