One of the latest buzz phrases in the world of nutrition is ‘carbohydrate quality’. While we’re not big on fads, Annabel and I do love our carbs: whole grains are an important part of our age-well diet. We understand that not all carbs are created equal: it’s obvious there’s a huge difference between the quality of carbohydrate in broccoli, and that in a doughnut. As the Harvard School of Public Health puts it, ‘The amount of carbohydrate in the diet – high or low – is less important than the type of carbohydrate in the diet. For example, healthy, whole grains such as whole wheat bread, rye, barley and quinoa are better choices than highly refined white bread or French fries.’
Did you watch The Truth About Carbs on BBC1 a few weeks ago? Do try and catch it – it’s on iPlayer for another week or so https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b5y6c0/the-truth-about-27-carbsDr Xand van Tulleken examines the role that carbs, good and bad, play in our diets. He divides them up into white carbs (sugar, sweets, fizzy drinks etc), beige carbs – starchy foods like bread and pasta; and green ones – high fibre fruits and vegetables aka good carbs.
In the programme Dr Xand put a small group of people with weight-related health issues, including type-2 diabetes, on a ‘low-carb’ diet. What’s key here is that it’s low in foods from the white and beige carb groups, but packed with vegetables aka ‘green carbs’. So the group replace white rice with cauliflower rice and potato with celeriac. After two weeks of counting carbs rather than calories, the group all loved their new way of eating and had each lost half a stone. The diabetics found that their diabetic blood marker HbA1c dropped, blood sugar control improved, and fatty liver reduced. One of the group had been on diabetes medication for 17 years: after two weeks on the diet he was classified as being in part-remission from the condition, and close to reversing his diabetes. The man looked close to tears (of joy) when he was given these results. There’s more information – and lots of recipes – on www.diabetes.co.uk
The great benefit of quality carbs like whole grains and vegetables is that they are packed with fibre. It’s an indigestible, plant-based carbohydrate and is critical if we want to age healthily. It helps control cholesterol levels, protect against diabetes, manage weight and reduce colo-rectal cancer risk. We need to aim for 30g of fibre a day, which is a lot when you consider that half a tin of baked beans contains 7.5g of fibre and three Weetabix, 5.4g. Most people in the UK get around 18g a day. As part of our research for our book, The Age-Well Project, we’ve been keeping ‘fibre diaries’ to see how much we consume each day. Not enough is the answer, but we’re working at it. Check out the end of this post for some of our favourite recipes which fit the bill.
We love oats and have more oat-based recipes on this blog than anything else! Luckily they are quality carbohydrates, with every 10g of rolled oats containing one gramme of fibre. So they are the star of this week’s recipe. It’s very versatile: swap the salted peanuts for chopped almonds to cut salt and reduce the maple syrup right down for a less-sweet version. These are vegan and almost refined sugar free.
DARK CHOCOLATE AND SALTED PEANUT FLAPJACKS (GRANOLA BARS)
- 230g jumbo oats
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 50g dark chocolate, chopped (go as dark as you like – 85% cocoa is good)
- 50g salted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 3 ripe bananas
- 120g crunchy peanut butter
- 100ml maple syrup (or less, depending on taste)
- 1 tbs coconut oil + a bit more to oil the baking tin
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and oil a brownie tin. Put the tablespoon of oil, peanut butter and maple syrup in a small saucepan and stir gently until just melted and combined. Take off the heat and mash in the bananas.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, cinnamon and chocolate. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix to combine. Carefully stir through the peanuts.
Press into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes. I get 12 large or 18 small bars out of this.
Our top 10 quality carb recipes from the blog:
Chilled avocado and cucumber soup
Chard and pearl barley risotto
Kale and black sesame rice bowl
Hi Susan, this sounds like a great recipe, just wondering whether it would also serve as an energy bar? I’m not diabetic but I can get hyperglycemic when doing endurance exercise, walking, cycling etc. I seem to need protein more than carbs.
Susan Saunders says
Hi Nigel – I’m not a dietician but yes I think this could be a useful energy bar. It’s based on an American recipe for granola bars which can definitely double up as an energy bar. There isn’t a lot of sugar so it should be ok for your endurance exercise. Let us know how you get on! Susan