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How to reduce carbs in Indian diet

Indian diet primarily has a lot of carbs. Here are ways to reduce its consumption.

carbsA major portion of the Indian diet consists of carbohydrates. Does our body really need as much carb as we consume? Are we pushing ourselves towards ailments by eating so much carbs? What changes can we incorporate in the Indian diet to make it healthier? Nutritionist Sneha Sadhwani answers these questions in this article.

A balanced diet comprises primarily of three main macromolecules carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbs are one of the main types of macromolecules which provide energy to our body. These carbs when digested are broken down to sugars or glucose which is used by the whole body and brain as the main source of energy.

Ideally, we should receive 50-55% of our calories from carbs, 15-20% calories from protein and remaining calories from good quality fat. But an Indian diet consists of about 70-80% calories from carbs, 10% or less from protein and the remaining calories from fat, this means that the amount of carbs Indians consume is too high. This can lead to a host of health problems in the long run. Many people eliminate carbs completely from their diet thinking if it is carb, it is unhealthy. However, not all carbs are bad and your body cannot function optimally without it. Carbs are of two types: simple (unhealthy) and complex (healthy). Here's how to distinguish the two.

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Simple carbs: They are refined or processed sugars which are usually unhealthy because they contain no fibre, vitamins and minerals; for this reason, simple carbs should be used in restricted or limited amounts. In addition, these carbs contain a simple chemical structure which is digested and absorbed quickly and gives less satiety. As they are digested quickly they also lead to a quick rise in blood glucose levels. Thus, simple carbs lead to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease and many other health complications.

Foods which fall under this category include sugar and sugary products such as jam, candies, jellies, chocolates, etc., sugarcane, honey, jaggery, refined cereals such as white flour or maida and its products such as white bread, pasta, noodles etc. and aerated beverages.

Complex carbs: These have a complex chemical structure which takes longer time to break down in the digestive system thus giving a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time. As they are slowly digested and absorbed, they do not quickly raise the blood glucose levels, thus it becomes beneficial and important in the management of diabetes and obesity. Complex carbs also contain dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals which make them very healthy.

Complex carbs include Wholegrain cereals such as oats, barley, bulgur wheat, sorghum, bajra, brown rice, etc., wheat bran or oat bran, legumes, beans and pulses, vegetables with high fibre content such as spinach, zucchini, okra, broccoli, peas and carrots.

It is very important to choose foods containing complex carbs over simple carbs to reap maximum health benefits. When excess of simple carbs are consumed, they are stored in the body as fat (triglycerides).

It is very important to improve the quality of carbs in your diet and to get the required calories from complex carbs rather than simple. As the quality of carbs will improve, they will provide satiety or feelings of fullness ,which will also reduce the amount you eat or overeat, thereby lowering your intake of carbs and calories alike.

Ways to improve the quality of carbs and add more fibre to your diet:

  1. Instead of wheat flour rotis start making rotis of barley, sorghum, bajra, oats, bran, etc. A part of wheat flour can be replaced by these flours that are rich in fibre.
  2. Flaxseeds or chia seeds can be added to salads, smoothies or they can be powdered and added to chapatti flour.
  3. Rather than making white rice pulao or khichdi, substitute white rice with brown rice or bulgur wheat/dalia.
  4. Include more leafy and cruciferous vegetables and cut down on potato and other starchy vegetables.
  5. Add different sprouts and beans to salads and soups.
  6. Use home-made hummus (made from chickpeas) rather than ketchup as an accompaniment.
  7. Combine simple and complex carbs consume a bar full of nuts and fruits rather than plain chocolate.
  8. Try to consume at least 4-5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit daily.

Image source: Getty Images

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