These are often referred to as “starch”, but this is not entirely correct, as this class is divided into three separate categories based on their structure, which by the way, also determines how much energy they will release into your system:
a) Sugars range from smaller molecules, such as glucose and fructose (fruit sugar), to the larger molecules lactose (milk sugar), sucrose (table sugar) and maltose (beer sugar). Sugars release all their sugars into your system.
b) Starches are composed of long chains of sugars like glucose. Starches require special enzymes to separate the individual sugar molecules from one another before they can be utilised as an energy source. Starches release most of their sugars into your system.
c) Fibre is even more complex in structure than starch, and humans, unlike termites, rodents and herbivores, lack the enzymes for its digestion. A large proportion of the fibre we consume therefore passes through our intestines, mostly undigested, and only a small portion of fibre’s energy is absorbed into our system. Fibre, however, aids with the very important function of elimination and prevents constipation.
Carbohydrates are predominantly made by plants through a chemical process called photosynthesis. Plant material is therefore our main source of carbohydrates. This includes all grains (wheat, rice and corn), all legumes (beans and peas), all vegetables (including vegetable juice and soup) and all fruit (including fruit juice). However, carbohydrates are also found in large quantities in dairy products such as milk and yoghurt, in the form of milk sugar, the only carbohydrate made by mammals.
As the principle source of our energy, glucose requires special attention.
After a meal, all excess glucose molecules, not required for immediate energy purposes, are bonded together via a chemical process into one long chainlike molecule called glycogen. Glycogen, in turn, is stored in two pantries in the body, namely the liver and the muscles. These pantries, however, have limited packing space, and, once they are full, all excess glucose is converted into fatty acids. The hormone that is responsible for this process is insulin. Fatty acids are transported to and stored in fat cells, truly remarkable storage containers. Fat cells contain unlimited storage space and are extraordinarily expandable. Their ability to increase in size is quite astonishing.
Besides contributing to weight gain by stimulating fat production, insulin also blocks the natural flow of fatty acids from the fat cells, preventing fat from being used for energy purposes. This obviously also prevents you from losing weight. Although dietary fat and protein play a role, blood insulin levels are largely controlled by glucose levels. If glucose enters the system at a slower rate, less insulin is secreted and less fat is deposited. If glucose enters the system at a faster rate, more insulin is secreted and more fat is deposited.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a classification of carbohydrates based on the speed at which individual food items release glucose into the system and raise blood glucose levels. Low GI carbohydrates release glucose at a much slower rate than high GI carbohydrates, and therefore assist with weight loss. Various factors affect the rate at which glucose is released. Individual properties relating to the food substance, the presence of fat, fibre and protein in a mixed meal and different food production and processing techniques, all determine how quickly each food substance will be digested and release its glucose content. The basic idea is therefore to eat food items from the low and intermediate groups in preference to those belonging to the high GI group.
The Glycemic Load (GL) is a ranking system for carbohydrates determined not only on their glycemic index (GI), but on portion size as well. The usefulness of the glycemic load is based on the idea that a high glycemic index food consumed in small quantities would have the same effect as larger quantities of a low glycemic index food on blood sugar. For example, white rice has a somewhat high GI, so eating 50g of white rice at one sitting would give you a certain blood glucose curve. Eating half that amount will give the same curve but only half the height. Since the peak height is probably the most important parameter for diabetic control, multiplying the amount of carbohydrates in a food serving by the glycemic index gives an idea of how much effect an actual portion of food has on blood sugar level.
The Insulin Index (II) is a similar, more recent method, that instead of focusing on blood glucose levels, it classifies foods based on their effects on blood insulin levels directly. Although still in its early phase of development, the Insulin Index may become a handy guide to follow in future. This is because insulin secretion is not only stimulated by glucose (or starch) entering the system, but by some amino acids as well. As a rule, we hardly ever eat a food substance in isolation, but usually in combination with other food items in a mixed meal.
What you need to remember:
Stick to your C.A.P.E meal plan food list. To make things easier for you, all these technical aspects have been considered during its design.
All proteins are made from smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are 22 different types of amino acids and each one has its own individual structure, function and property. Most amino acids can be made in the body, but ‘essential amino acids’ are those our bodies cannot make and must therefore obtain from our diet.
Meat, dairy products and eggs have the entire range of amino acids and are called ‘complete proteins’. Although some plants have high levels of proteins, they do not always contain the entire range of amino acids, and are therefore referred to as ‘incomplete proteins’. For this reason, vegetarians must eat grains as well as legumes, otherwise they will develop a nutritional deficiency.
After water, protein is the most abundant substance in the body. It is the primary component of our muscles, skin and internal organs. Amino acids, unlike carbohydrates and fat, are not stored in the body for energy purposes, but can be converted to energy under certain conditions. During a period of famine, for example, the body will first use carbohydrate and fat for energy purposes. Only when these stores are depleted, will the body start using its own protein.
What you need to remember:
Some proteins are better than others because of the saturated fat content that specifically are contained in animal proteins. To make things easier for you, they are all listed in your C.A.P.E meal plan food lists, enabling you to make better choices.
All fats consist of smaller units called fatty acids, which are in fact just large molecules made from carbon and hydrogen atoms. A saturated fat contains the maximum number of hydrogen atoms it can accommodate and is therefore ‘saturated’. An ‘unsaturated fat’ simply has space for more hydrogen atoms and is therefore ‘unsaturated’. For various biochemical reasons, unsaturated fats are beneficial for our health, whilst saturated fats are detrimental to our health.
The main function of fat is to store energy. It does this so well that one gram of fat contains nine calories of energy, more than twice the number that carbohydrate and protein contain.
Some fatty acids play a crucial role in the human body, and are called ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA’s). Because of their benefits, they should ideally be consumed every day, for without an adequate supply, certain diseases may develop.
The main sources of fat are fatty food, processed food, fried food, pies, sausages, rusks, biscuits, butter, oil, salad dressing, cream and margarine.
What you need to remember:
Fat makes you fat and should therefore be avoided if you are trying to lose weight. All you need to do is stick to your C.A.P.E meal plan, which limits your total intake of fat and allows you to choose healthy fat options.
Vitamins are essential for health and vitality and play a role in growth, digestion and immunity. They are not sources of energy and are also not building blocks for bodily tissues. Their sole purpose is to assist other chemicals such as enzymes and hormones to perform their function. Our bodies cannot manufacture vitamins and we therefore need to ingest them by eating plants and animals that do manufacture them.
Vitamins are abundant in fruit and vegetable matter, which also contains numerous other anti-cancerous and disease preventing micro-nutrients.
What you need to remember:
Vitamins contain no energy value and do not make you fat. It is also not quite correct to say that vitamins stimulate your appetite and make you eat more. Your meal plan contains a wide selection of fruit and vegetables, rich in micro-nutrient content. All you need to do is stick to your meal plan.