Here are four simple components to look for when choosing an ideal slow-releasing carbohydrate.
Digestive Surface Area
Most supermarket breads are absorbed too quickly into our digestive system. When grain is pulverized by our modern high speed rolling mills into a talcum powder, the surface area available for immediate digestion is dramatically increased, resulting in a blood glucose spike.
The soft pillowy bread that we have all grown accustomed to will cause a glucose spike higher than white sugar. The way they are able to achieve such unnaturally fluffy bread is by adding gluten, a sticky protein, to the flour. We are going to discuss gluten in more detail a little later. Gluten provides the dough with an elastic strength, so when yeast is added, the bread will rise without breaking small bubbles produced by the active yeast, again vastly increasing the digestive surface area. If it melts in the mouth, be sure it will hit the blood like a Mack truck. This also applies to puffed grains, like puffed wheat or Rice Krispies, which are high on the glycemic index.
Whole grains, on the other hand, are slow to break down into glucose, providing a more sustained energy. I have learned to enjoy heavier, chewy breads with whole seeds, raisins and cracked grains, such as whole grain rye, muesli, multigrain and pumpernickel. They are filling, releasing energy slowly, and when toasted and topped with natural peanut butter, it’s a real treat two hours before hitting the gym. The reward is a great workout.
Cooking pasta only until chewy, or as the Italians say, al dente, will also significantly lower GI—better yet, choose whole-wheat pasta.
Fiber acts as a physical barrier to digestion, helping to slow down the assimilation of starch. The fiber which coats beans and seeds is a moderating factor, restricting the digestion of starches for fuel, making them low-GI foods. Beans, some grains and whole oats contain soluble fiber, making intestinal contents more viscous and slowing the absorption of starch.
Amylopectin And Amylose Starches
Amylopectin and amylose are the two principal plant starches, and both release energy differently. Indian rice has a different starch than Chinese rice, converting more slowly into metabolic fuel. Amylopectin, found in Chinese rice, is much easier to digest due to its structural differences, its branches offering a greater surface area for enzymes to work. Amylose, the starch common to basmati Indian rice, is preferable for is slower release. This is largely ignored by the so-called Low-Carb Diets, lumping all rice together under a “must stay away” food.
Combining Fat in Food
Fat slows down the rate of emptying the stomach, hence oatmeal cookies have a lower GI then plan oatmeal. But adding fat to starches is not the healthy way to moderate blood sugar. Lemon juice, acidic fruits or vinegar work well to slow the emptying of the stomach, due to increased gastric acidity. Eating a carbohydrate like pasta or potatoes with a raw vegetable salad is also a great way of moderating digestion of energy because of the added bulk of cellulose fiber. There are times when you are going to want to treat yourself to fries or mashed potatoes. A side dish of raw veggies will make the odd indulgence guilt-free.
Related Article: The Glycemic Index For Weight Loss?