January 19, 2015

Eat Good Carbohydrates


good carbohydratesGood carbohydrates are a major key to a optimal nutrition program. Good carbohydrates are essential to keeping insulin levels down in the healthy range. Eating good carbohydrates takes discipline and knowledge, because it is really easy to find yourself eating the bad carbohydrates if you are not careful as the bad carbs tend to be concentrated in convenient foods.

As we stated in a previous post carbohydrates are the main energy source the body runs on. Carbohydrates are organic compounds (those that contain carbon). Consume carbohydrates that will impact insulin minimally. That means eating carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load.

There are several websites available that you can use to determine the glycemic index of a given carbohydrate. One such site is www.glycemicindex.com. Books like Sugar Busters! and The New Glucose Revolution provide the glycemic index and loads of many carbohydrates.

Glycemic index (GI): refers to the rate at which a carbohydrate is broken down and absorbed as glucose in the blood. The index goes from 1-100. The lower the number the healthier is the carbohydrate. Glucose itself has an index of 100. The glycemic index is based on consuming 50 grams of carbohydrate.

Glycemic load (GL): refers to the total amount of glucose that enters the blood after breakdown of a carbohydrate and determines how much insulin must be released. Again, you want to keep insulin levels low as possible. The glycemic load takes into account how many grams of carbohydrate are actually in a typical serving. For instance, watermelon has a relatively high glycemic index of 72, but in a typical serving it contains very few grams since it is mostly water and has a healthy glycemic load of 4.

At the end of the day the glycemic load is probably the most useful measure to base decisions upon.

The first two to four weeks do your best to eat carbohydrates with a glycemic index less than 55 and glycemic load of less than 10. If you need to lose several pounds then be stricter and eat only carbohydrates with glycemic indexes less than 40. Examples of good carbohydrates and their glycemic indexes and glycemic loads are found below.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load


Food Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Banana 54 13
Sourdough bread 53 6
Green peas 51 4
Oatmeal 49 9
Carrots 49 2
Long grain white rice 44 16
Sweet potato 44 11
Orange 42 5
Peach 42 5
White spaghetti 41 20
Rye bread 40 6
Strawberries 40 1
Raspberries 40 1
Apple 38 6
Pear 38 4
Tomato 38 1
Honey (100% floral) 35 6
Skim milk 34 4
Black beans 30 5
Lentils 25 5
Grapefruit 25 3
Sour cherries 22 3
Agave nectar 19 1
Peanuts 15 1
Hummus 6 1


Low glycemic foods: those with GI under 55 (these are your good carbohydrates)

Medium glycemic foods: those with GI between 56-69

High glycemic foods: those with GI above 70

The first two to six weeks eat only low glycemic carbs. After that “induction” period you can re-introduce medium glycemic foods, but if you have diabetes or really struggle with your weight focus primarily on low glycemic carbohydrates at all times saving medium glycemic foods for your “cheat day”.

In general, avoid white bread, white pasta, white rice, white potatoes which are all high glycemic. However, they do have healthier cousins like brown rice, sweet potatoes, wheat pasta and sourdough bread which are low to medium glycemic.

So that’s good carbohydrates in a nutshell!


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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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