The food that is so often misunderstood

  • Where I stand on the great carb debate
  • Why there is such a thing as good and bad foods
  • Nuts, seeds & berries – not just for birds!

At my age I’m often misunderstood…I get used to it.

Being the complex and irascible character that I am can sometimes lead to a period of being ostracised.

To be honest with you there are times when I actually enjoy it!

You could say that I have been in training for self-isolation for the last decade or more since I began writing the Good Life Letter…

…but, dear reader, I need to make clear the fact that I am not anti-carbohydrates in diet.

Far from it, some of my favourite things are packed with them…I do, however, take exception to the overuse of bad carbohydrates in food.

When I say bad carbohydrates though, I don’t mean you need to put them on the naughty step or sit them in a corner in a dunce’s hat. No foods are really that bad as part of a balanced diet. I simply mean they’re tougher for the body to break down, digest and absorb nutrients from.

A few weeks ago I told you about the dangerous impact unrefined carbohydrates can have on our respiratory system.

What seems to be the case, judging by my mailbox, is that some of you think I don’t want these important compounds to pass my lips at all.

But that is simply not the case.

I fundamentally believe in a balanced diet, with the best possible source of all the important nutrients and the tastiest way of putting them together.

And that includes carbohydrates which we need as energy rich products.

There are good sources and bad ones though, and this is where care needs to be taken.

For instance, honey is packed full of carbohydrates in the form of sugars – but these are natural fruit and nectar sourced ones, fructose, glucose, maltose & sucrose being the principal ones.

The way they are made available to the body is key to their effect. You see, being simple sugars they do not deplete the stores of minerals to metabolise them (this is mainly magnesium) and do not cause a surge in blood sugar immediately after consumption.

Both of these effects are common in the consumption of sugar syrup and other types of refined & artificial sugars – which is inherently bad for you.

But how can you be sure you are getting good stuff from other foods?

Getting the best carbohydrates around

Put simply, the best thing you can do is avoid anything processed, manufactured or refined, making sure you always get as close to the source as possible with your food.

By including a bit of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet will do wonders for healthy consumption (and help with your 5 a day!), but your real champions will always be grain, pulses and nuts.

Here are my tips for getting a bellyful of good carbohydrates;

  • Choose wholegrain breads where all of the grain is used rather than just the flour and gluten. These breads are fantastic for sandwiches and toast; try to find those with a few extra seeds in as well, like pumpkin, sunflower or sesame. Warm a loaf in the oven and use to dunk into your favourite autumnal soup… believe me it’s one of life’s most simple yet delicious delights!
  • Don’t let the Scots keep all the good stuff for themselves, make sure you start your day with a bowl of porridge. I adore pinhead oatmeal which is soaked overnight then cooked in a little water and finished with a drop of milk and a dollop of honey. If that doesn’t set you up for your day nothing will.
  • White rice is no friend to western diets, so try to use brown or wild rice with your curries or chillies. Adopting whole grains like bulgar wheat, whole grain couscous and triticale are so much better for you than potatoes or white rice which tend to dump their carbohydrates into the blood stream in a rush, rather than slowly as the whole grains do.
  • Drinks often have high sugar levels in them. Obviously anything sweet and fizzy is to be avoided but also try to eat fresh fruit rather than just the juice, which means you’re getting the fibre as well. For those who enjoy an evening (or mid afternoon whilst catching up on Midsomer Murders) tipple, opt for red wine rather than white as it has a much lower sugar content. Even the flintiest dry Chablis has more sugar per glass than an equivalently alcoholic Gammay.
  • Get your beans in! Pulses are great sources of natural carbohydrates plus are packed with protein and can be added to curries (lentils & peas), stews (Borlotti and butter beans) and even salads (Kidney and Black beans) for an energy boost anytime.

So, to those of you who might have thought I had lost my marbles I apologise, but rest assured I am still the same old misery I always was.