Expert advice to help you maintain a healthy weight
Dissatisfied with your weight?
We're bombarded with scare stories about weight, from size zero to the obesity 'epidemic'. But a healthy weight is determined by different factors for each of us. Our expert advice is designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy, life-enhancing weight.
Overweight or underweight?
Being the right weight has a positive effect on wellbeing but also on our health, as being the wrong weight can cause a range of medical problems.
This food group is your body's main source of energy and contains bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, noodles, chapatti, cereals and other starchy carbohydrates.
Refined and unrefined grains
The foods listed above (apart from potatoes) are all produced from grains, such as wheat, corn or rice. They should be a part of all meals, filling about a third of your plate. They can come in two forms – refined or unrefined (often known as whole grains).
Refined grains have been stripped of their outer bran coating and inner germ during the milling process, leaving only the endosperm. They include white rice, white bread and white pasta.
In a whole grain the bran, germ and endosperm are all still present. The bran is an excellent source of fibre; the germ is a source of protein, vitamins and minerals; and the endosperm supplies most of the carbohydrates, mainly in the form of starch. Unrefined or whole grain forms provide far more nutrients than their unrefined counterparts.
Whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart.
Most people get their whole grain from wholemeal bread or whole grain breakfast cereals such as porridge, muesli or whole wheat cereals. Choose a whole grain variety over processed or refined grains, and look out for added sugar or salt.
Other whole grains include:
Dietary fibre is found in plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fibre cannot be fully digested and is often called bulk or roughage. The two types of fibre found in food are soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre, which can dissolve in water, is found in beans, fruit and oat products, and can help to lower blood fats and maintain blood sugar.
Insoluble fibre cannot dissolve in water, so passes directly through the digestive system. It’s found in whole grain products and vegetables and it increases the rate at which food passes through the gut.
Evidence for health benefits of fibre
High-fibre foods take longer to digest, so keep you feeling fuller for longer. The slow and steady digestion of food through the gut helps control blood sugar and assists with weight maintenance
Fibre helps in the digestive process and can help lower blood cholesterol
Fibre promotes bowel regularity and keeping the gastrointestinal tract clean to help reduce the risk of developing diverticular disease and constipation
A high-fibre diet may reduce the risk of developing diabetes and colorectal cancer
To eat more fibre, try these healthy swaps:
||Dark rye crispbread|
How much is enough?
Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods should make up about one third of your diet. Try these recipes from the BBC Food website:
Banana and Oat Smoothie
Wholemeal pizza baguettes
Ham and watercress sandwich on wholemeal bread
Creamy lentils and brown rice
Using wholemeal flour in baking, as in this Irish Soda Bread or half and half as in these Carrot and Pineapple Muffins
What about GI?
The glycaemic index (GI) is a way of ranking carbohydrate foods based on how quickly they increase blood sugar levels. Low GI foods are especially helpful for people with diabetes, who need to have more control over their blood sugar levels than the general population.
Ideally foods with a low GI, such as those rich in soluble fibre like oats and legumes, should be eaten more frequently than those with a high GI. But the texture, type of cooking or processing used, and the amount and type of sugars present can all affect the GI. Since foods are often consumed as part of a meal or snack, it can be difficult to calculate the GI. Focusing on unrefined, high-fibre, whole grain cereals and minimising rapidly absorbed, refined cereals and sugary foods will all help to lower the GI of your diet.