The carbohydrates you eat, which mainly come from starchy vegetables, whole and refined grains, fruits and sugar-containing foods, are digested more or less quickly depending on a variety of factors. Once carbohydrates are digested, they are turned to sugar, or glucose, which is then absorbed into your blood. The faster carbohydrates are digested and absorbed, the more quickly and the higher your blood sugar levels can rise after eating. Keeping your blood sugar levels lower by slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates can help you better control your cravings, weight and diabetes.
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Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that has the particularity of absorbing a lot of water and forming a gel in your gastrointestinal tract. By forming a gel, it slows down the work of your enzymes and slightly delays the normal absorption of the carbohydrates you ate at your meal or snack. Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, okra, apple, citrus, beans, lentils, flaxseeds and nuts.
Protein takes longer to digest and including a source of protein at your meal or snack can help to delay and slow down your digestion, leading to a slower absorption of the carbohydrate-rich foods you included at your meal. The best sources of protein include eggs, meat, fish, seafood and poultry. Nuts and dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, are also good sources of protein.
Choosing low-glycemic index carbohydrates over high-glycemic carbohydrates can result in a slower absorption of the carbohydrates you consumed. The glycemic index is a system used to classify the speed at which different carbohydrate-rich foods are absorbed and elevate your blood sugar levels. Mashed or baked potatoes, french fries, most types of breads and breakfast cereals, rice, bagels, baked goods and candies are quickly absorbed. Choose slowly digested and absorbed carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, steel-cut oats, whole grain pasta, barley, quinoa, beans, lentils, nonstarchy vegetables and fruits instead.
Slowing Down Carbohydrates
Slowing down the absorption of the carbohydrates found at your meals and snacks can help you keep your blood sugar levels more even throughout the day. Choose low glycemic index carb and combine them with a source of protein and soluble fiber. For example, start breakfast with a bowl of steel-cut oats with Greek yogurt, almond butter and a diced apple. Your other meals could include either quinoa, whole grain pasta or sweet potato combined with chicken, fish or beef along with plenty of nonstarchy vegetables. Include okra or eggplant or add ground flaxseeds or psyllium husk to your yogurt for a boost of soluble fiber.
- Health Castle; Fiber 101: Soluble Fiber vs Insoluble Fiber; Gloria Tsang; March 2011
- Health Castle; Diabetes and Snacks; Sejal Dave; February 2008
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrate Counting
- Joslin Diabetes Center: Carbohydrate Counting 101
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Data Laboratory
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values; Kaye Foster-Powell, et al.; 2002