Amylose and Amylopectin? Am I looking too deep into the structure of food molecules, or simply identifying what we all need to understand to finally make sense of all the information out there about carbohydrates.

I am going to go with the latter and continue to go on and explain..

Carbohydrates (the food molecule that makes up the majority of ‘carbohydrate rich’ foods such as bread, rice, pasta, and starchy vegetables) are made up of two different types of starch molecules. Amylose, which has a linear structure  and is not digested easily, and amylopectin which has a branched structure, and is readily digested.

Often you hear about the benefits of carbohydrates that are digested slowly causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels and preventing the highs and lows that come from having a quick rise in blood glucose followed by the drop (sounds a bit like the hit you get from having a chocolate bar mid afternoon which leaves you more ravenous when you finally get home for dinner).

With this in mind, it makes sense to want to find foods that are higher in amylose than amylopectin.  However how on earth do we know if something is higher in one or the other? It’s not like we all have the time to stand in the lab and test every food we eat?!

Here are a couple tips to help you switch on your scientific mind:

One way of determining whether the amylose content is higher is to look out for the fibre and resistant starch amounts in foods; Interestingly enough, the amount of resistant starch and fibre goes up as the proportion of amylose in starch increases.

You will also find that although not all low GI (glycemic index) foods are high in amylose, one of the factors that affects the GI of a food is its amylose to amylopectin ratio, and therefore if a food has a low GI, it is more likely to be higher in amylose (a positive thing!).

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the different molecules that make up your carbohydrate rich foods, I hope that you feel confident to stand your ground if anyone ever tries to make the blanket statement at you that all carbs are bad.

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