• Give your favourite carbs a GI makeover. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Despite their bad reputation, carbs are an essential source of energy. Here are some handy hacks to make your favourite carbs a little bit healthier.
Jody Phan

27 May 2016 - 9:51 AM  UPDATED 31 May 2016 - 9:44 AM

Carbs can be divided into two categories based on their chemical structure: complex and simple (or good and bad).

The complex kind, including whole grains, beans and vegetables, takes longer for the body to break down. Meanwhile, simple carbs, such as refined sugar, are digested faster and spike your blood sugar levels.

But there are ways to include carbs - even the “bad” ones like white rice - as part of a healthy diet.

Refrigerate and reheat

New research has found that cooling and reheating certain carbs makes them better for you.

Foods like white rice, potatoes and pasta can have a high glycaemic index (high GI) score and when eaten, are absorbed very quickly by the body causing the insulin hormone to be swiftly released to level out blood glucose.

This rapid rise and fall of blood glucose levels is the reason you might feel hungry shortly after eating.

A 2008 study found the glycaemic response of white bread, when frozen and then toasted, is altered significantly.

But cooking and then cooling pasta, potatoes or white rice changes the structure of the carbs into “resistant starch”. This is burned as energy in the colon, also helping to sustain healthy gut bacteria.

“Cooking the carbohydrate starch alters the chemical bonds in the food,” says Paul Arciero, professor in the health and exercise sciences department of Skidmore College, NY. "The resistant starches are still retained even after the food has been reheated."

Swap your regular grains for barley

High in fibre and antioxidants, barley has many health benefits even though it’s less popular than other grains such as oats or rice. For instance, one cup of barley has less calories and fat, and is higher in fibre, than quinoa, brown rice or amaranth.

In a study at Lund University in Sweden, barley was found to better regulate people’s metabolism for up to 14 hours, while also decreasing blood sugar and insulin levels for improved appetite control. Not only that, their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes was also reduced.

"After eating the bread made out of barley kernel, we saw an increase in gut hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite, and an increase in a hormone that helps reduce chronic low-grade inflammation, among the participants. In time this could help prevent the occurrence of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes," says researcher Anne Nilsson.

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Cook rice with coconut oil

In 2015 researchers found a new way of cooking rice that slashes calories. This method involves boiling water and adding coconut oil (three per cent of the weight of rice) before cooking the rice. Then cool the cooked rice for 12 hours before eating.

Dr Sudhair James, researcher at The College of Chemical Sciences, Sri Lanka, says this method of cooking can decrease the calories of rice by up to 60 per cent.

Freeze and toast bread

We all know white bread can be the dietary devil due to its high GI score, leaving you feeling lethargic and often hungry.

In a study by Lund University in Sweden, barley was found to better regulate people’s metabolism for up to 14 hours.

But a 2008 study reported that the glycaemic response of white bread, when frozen and then toasted, is altered significantly. Freezing and toasting the bread lowers its GI score by 39 per cent, reducing the spike in blood sugar.

Of course, you could apply this method to wholemeal bread and benefit even further as whole-grain breads contain more fibre and protein.

Can't get enough of carbs? Watch Giada in Italy on SBS On Demand

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