By Ayah Murad,
Many diets warn against the evil of carbs. Indeed, there are different types of carbs but balance is critical. I do not encourage cutting carbs completely out of your diet, but rather choose the right kind of carbs. Here’s a guide to bread, cereals, grains and baked goods.
The Glycaemic Index (a scale that detects the relative rise of blood glucose level two hours after consuming a particular food) provides a great reference for choosing the right kinds of carbs. Going for low Glycaemic Index foods overall, and fewer carbs, specifically, is a great way to ensure healthier options for your diet.
Smart choices: bread
There are plenty of healthy wholegrain, high-fibre options to choose from in the bakery, and those are the ones you need in your pantry. Wholegrain breads and baked goods are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Most of them are not only low in saturated fat, but also help reduce the absorption of free fat and sugars. This is a low Glycaemic Index food option which will not raise your blood sugar level.
In Jordan, it is customary to make a bakery run in the morning to shop for fresh bread, such as kmaj. This is a popular wheat-based fortified flour choice, with the essential B vitamins, and sold as wholegrain or white (refined flour). The same flour is mostly used for other baking goods, with extra flour enhancer additions for pastries.
Ka’ek (chunky white bread used for sandwiches) is very dear to most of us and is usually loaded with sesame, which can help enhance blood iron and calcium levels.
A bread that we typically don’t find in the healthy section of the bakery or the grocery store is algae bread. This bread is loaded with iodine, which is vital for a healthy thyroid and for enhancing metabolism. However, this option does not suit everyone and should be considered carefully, as some may have thyroid dysfunction.
Want to diversify your diet?
I recommend including:
Rye bread (high in protein)
Thin shrak bread (low carb and yeast-free)
Wholegrain cereals and pasta
Just as you might choose wholegrain bread for your morning toast or lunchtime sandwich, consider other wholegrain cereals and noodles for the same nutritional benefits. Adding more variety to your meals is a good choice. Try not only to choose brown rice but also other healthy grains, such as freekeh, grit, quinoa and couscous.
The same goes for other carb-centric foods, such as potatoes. Many of us know only a few types of potatoes, which is why it is surprising to learn that there are actually about 4,000 different types in the world.
Another tip is to add seeds to your carbs in general. Pairing seeds with carbs helps control normal blood sugar levels and provides essential vitamins such as selenium, zinc and more. On the other hand, high fibre options such as wholegrain can reduce the absorption of vitamins, which can negatively impact our overall immunity and iron levels.
Whole-grain is not for everyone!
Those with low iron, low Vitamin B, or suffering from diabetes, the prostate, heart disease, water retention and irritable bowel syndrome, should steer clear from whole grains and stick to multi-seed bread options. Often it is indeed difficult to find these multi seeded options – in which case, sprinkling seeds in your sandwich for a healthy twist, is a good option.
While wholegrain is suitable for most, it is essential to be aware that it may not be the best option for all. When in doubt, it is best to consult a dietician for a plan best suited to you.
Need a gluten-free diet?
You don’t have to avoid bread, pasta or cereals altogether! It just requires smarter food choices. To start, try avoiding wheat, barley, oats and rye-based products. Instead, choose potatoes, rice, quinoa or even buckwheat. These are also clearly labelled as gluten-free products in the market in Jordan.