Mmmmm, chocolate covered peppermint biscuits!

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OK, so I’ve been trying out lots of recipes for wheat and dairy free goodies in the last few weeks.  My ultimate favourite has got to be chocolate coconut squares (and if you want to know more about them go visit my website).

But last night I decided to try out Elana’s Pantry Paleo Girl Scout Peppermint Cookies (original version here).  Her version are dairy and wheat free, but I had to change the recipe slightly, partly because I’ve cut out nuts for now, since they came up high on my food intolerance test, and partly because I didn’t have some of her ingredients.  My version are so scrummy I’m not sure how I managed not to eat more than a nibble last night (And I know hers look a lot posher than mine, but she’s been doing this longer than I have!  I’m working on my presentation skills!).  My only lament is that they weren’t ready until bedtime, and I don’t tend to eat this sort of thing during the week (it’s a control thing!) so will have to wait now.  But roll on the weekend, because I am going to enjoy these every munch of the way.

So here we go – give them a try, you won’t regret it.

1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour (grind oats to a fine powder)
1/2 cup gram flour
1 tsp coconut flour
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
⅛ teaspoon rock salt
¼ teaspoon bicarb of soda
2 tbsp grass-fed butter
¼ cup maple syrup
1½  tsp peppermint extract
100g dark chocolate (preferably soya free and with sugar the lowest on the ingredients list) – or make your own (more on that another time)

Mix together the flours, cacao powder, bicarb and salt
Add butter, maple syrup and 1 tsp peppermint extract and mix into a dough (use a food processor – it’s much easier).
Lay a piece of baking parchment on the side, pop the dough on it, and cover with another piece of parchment.  Roll out until the dough is at desired thickness (the thinner the dough the more biccies you get!).
Freeze for 15 minutes, then cut into desired shapes.
Bake at 180°C on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 4 minutes.
Cool and then freeze for about an hour.
Melt the chocolate and the rest of the peppermint over a low heat, then dip each biscuit in the chocolate until covered.
Place on a plate lined with baking parchment and freeze until hard.
Keep in the freezer so they stay crunchy.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you how delish they are!

Warm Winter Sprout & Quinoa Salad

This sounds yummy. Will be trying this out during the week – I need new ideas for lunches!

Bright Young Food

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Quinoa is a slightly contentious topic in the food world at the moment (as this article highlights), due to the west’s sudden love and demand for this little grain. There’s no doubt that quinoa is one of the world’s greatest foods, especially for vegetarians and vegans out there: it’s a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, it has almost twice as much fibre as most other grains and it’s packed with magnesium. In most ways, it trumps all other grains, but when poor Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their staple food because of US and European demand raising prices, it’s not an easy or particularly acceptable thing to buy a packet of South American-grown quinoa and simply shrug and ignore this unethical fact.

Hodmedod's quinoa 2 smaller

But here in Britain we have the perfect solution – Hodmedod’s British quinoa from the fields of Essex. A truly local grain grown…

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How can a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy consultation help me?

This is a really clear explanation of what naturopathic nutritional therapy has to offer to you, the individual. How often have you gone to see the doc and wished they’d spend a bit more time listening to you and discussing your individual needs? Well you get that with a naturopathic nutritional therapist! Lyndsay Powers is based in the Portsmouth area, so look her up if you are down that way. But hey, if you’re in the MK area, come and speak to me instead. There are so many ways naturopathic nutritional therapy may help you!

lindsay powers nutrition

Naturopathic Nutritional therapy looks at your diet and lifestyle and how these may be contributing to your symptoms, whether they are physical, mental and/or emotional. For some people a connection between diet and symptoms may be obvious. But many others may not have made the connection that what they eat (or what they don’t eat), is contributing to their symptoms, yet Nutritional Therapy can be effective for a whole range of conditions. Therapists work with individuals, like yourself, with many different symptoms affecting areas such as the skin, digestion, hormones, energy levels, mental health issues, weight and so on.

Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy is different to the general advice given about ‘healthy eating’ in that it treats you as an individual. We are all just as different on the inside as we are on the outside, and this therapy does not take a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. Some foods may work…

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If eating gives you stomach ache check this out!

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Just imagine, you can smell your dinner cooking, and then you see it there, waiting for you to tuck in.  It’s a wonderfully nutritious meal – let’s say some oily fish, with lots of lightly steamed vegetables – a grand balance of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.  But soon after eating your stomach starts to ache: you feel all windy and start burping (or farting), experience acid reflux, feel heavy and bloated, nauseous, have to dash to the loo for a bout of diarrhoea…  What do you do?  Assume you’ve got an over-acidic stomach and reach for the Gaviscon or Rennies maybe?  Take some Imodium?  You may be surprised to learn that these symptoms may indicate low stomach acid instead (and by taking acid suppressing medication you could be adding to the problem of literally ‘indigestion’!)

Let’s rewind: you can smell your dinner cooking, and then you see it there, waiting for you to tuck in.  At this point your brain should signal your salivary glands to start salivating, and your stomach to start secreting gastric juices.  These chemicals (saliva, pepsinogen and hydrochloric acid or HCl) start the process of digestion off (they literally start unwinding and breaking apart the chemical bonds that hold your food together), and let your body know it’s time to release other chemicals (called digestive enzymes) further along in your system.  When you eat in a rush, when you regularly take acid suppressing medication, or simply just because you’re getting older and your body doesn’t work quite so efficiently, there may be insufficient HCl to signal release of digestive enzymes in your small intestine, and this is where digestive discomfort begins.

HCl starts the process of breaking down protein in your stomach.  Have you ever left some meat or fish out in a warm kitchen and noticed what happens to it?  It starts to smell (gives of noxious gases), and go off.  If you haven’t got enough HCl in your stomach there’s a chance the protein you eat is going to do something similar, perhaps leading to wind, pain and possibly a reflux of acid if the sphincter between your oesophagus and stomach is a bit loose!

Saliva starts to break down carbohydrates, and this process carries on in the small intestine.  But HCl signals the release of those digestive enzymes in the small intestine, so if there isn’t enough HCl to make that signal happen then there’s a possibility that carbs won’t be adequately broken down and may reach the large intestine in a form that allows the bacteria there to eat them instead.  And those bacteria give off all sorts of noxious gases (I’m sure you know what I mean!), causing wind (and bad smells to come out of you!), and sometimes diarrhoea too.  And just as an aside – if you’ve ever noticed bits of food in your poo (sweetcorn aside!) the problem is between your mouth and your stomach.  Once food leaves your stomach it shouldn’t look like food anymore, if your digestive system is working as it should be!

Another thing to bear in mind of course is that you can be eating the most nutritious diet going, but if you’re body isn’t digesting it properly you might as well save your money.  To absorb those wonderful nutrients your body must first break the food down – right down to amino acids, simple sugars and fatty acids.  It can’t do that without stomach acid!  So if you’re eating a nutritious diet but still don’t feel great this is something to consider, particularly if you also suffer from digestive discomfort.

Before I started learning about nutrition stomach acid was my enemy.  Now I take HCl supplements when I need to – my stomach is designed to withstand the acid, and I’m no longer afraid of it.  Of course you should never take HCl without first consulting a qualified nutritional therapist (like me!).   Some people do over produce acid, and certainly if you’ve got ulcers you need to be talking to your doctor and following her or his advice.  But please don’t just assume any digestive discomfort is due to over acidity.

Efficient digestion requires adequate HCl.  And adequate HCl requires at the very least that eating isn’t rushed, food is chewed properly, and enough fluid accompanies a meal (ideally a small glass of water).  If you want more personalised advice about this drop me an email or give me a ring to arrange a consultation (www.purplevitality.com)

Thank you garden!

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It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days. Eating the tomatoes I planted back in February delights me! Realising the vicious bramble that’s moved in at the bottom of my garden has a point (other than ensnaring me every time I go down there!) makes me ecstatic, providing me with a seemingly endless supply of juicy blackberries to put in my smoothies, jam and pies. Dodging falling apples as I shake the branches of my apple tree makes me giggle. Grabbing handfuls of elderberries to make immune-supporting elderberry syrup excites me. And heading down to the pear tree to pick off one or two for the day puts a spring in my step. Who’d have thought home grown produce could be so good for the soul, as well as the body? And the best thing is, apart from the tomatoes, I didn’t even have to do anything except receive the wonderful pesticide-free nutritional benefits these fruits provide me with.
One of the reasons for my upbeat mood is that all of these fruits are a source of vitamin C, tomatoes, elderberries and blackberries particularly so. As far as I’m concerned vitamin C is a wonder nutrient, and useful for far more than warding off Scurvy!
• It nourishes my immune system and may help reduce the duration of a cold (always useful at this time of year), can help reduce histamine production (useful for the management of allergies), and helps with wound healing;
• It’s a component of collagen, the substance that keeps the skin supple and young looking;
• It’s royalty among antioxidants, helping to counteract all the damaging free radicals we are exposed to in our environment. Free radicals damage body cells and eventually lead to all sorts of problems from inflammation to advanced ageing. Anything that helps reduce things like that is a plus in my book!
But did you know that vitamin C begins to reduce as soon as the fruit is picked from the plant? So having fruits (or vegetables) in your garden that you can pick and eat as you need them has the potential to increase how much vitamin C you get in your diet.
Elderberries also have immune-supporting properties, containing bioflavonoids that are believed to make it difficult for cold and flu viruses to latch on to our cells. (Whatever you do don’t eat raw elderberries though, as they can upset some people’s tummies. That’s why I cook them up into elderberry syrup for myself and my family to take during the autumn and winter).
Tomatoes are a great source of carotenoids. I’m sure you’re familiar with beta-carotene in carrots, but there are many other carotenoids, including lycopene and zeaxanthin. Lycopene is believed to be good for prostate health, and diets high in tomatoes have been linked with lower incidences of certain cancers. It is another powerful antioxidant, and useful for heart, eye and blood vessel health. Unlike vitamin C, which is destroyed by heat, lycopene is easier to absorb when the tomato is cooked, especially when mixed with a healthy oil, such as olive oil. Zeaxanthin appears to target the eyes and is therefore a useful nutrient in the prevention and treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
One of my favourite things to do with my home grown tomatoes is roast them with some olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar, then whizz them up in the blender. It’s absolutely delicious as a sauce for mince (think Bolognese) or over Sausages. My mouth waters at the thought of its sweet, rich flavour.
Apples contain the flavonoid quercetin, which has a long list of potential benefits. You’ll often see it in natural hay fever remedies because it’s believed to interfere with the release of histamine, one of the immune chemicals that causes allergic reactions. Quercetin has also been linked to a reduction in the risk of blocked arteries and high cholesterol. Not only that, apples have enzymes in them that are thought to help support liver and gall bladder health, and are a good source of mucus-busting potassium. Well you know what they say about an apple a day!
I simply love ever so slightly off-ripe pears, so just the sheer delight of biting in to one straight from the tree would be enough for me. But let’s not forget the fibre they contain, some of which is insoluble and helps provide bulk, and some of which feeds the friendly bacteria in your intestines, thus further offering support to your immune and digestive systems.
Oh yes I’m happy with my garden and what it’s giving back to me at the moment, especially as the weather has taken a turn and we are clearly on our way to winter. I definitely can’t be called a green-fingered individual, but nature has been very good to me this year. I hope you’ve had some similar delights from your garden!

 

Why I’m nuts about coconut (or 5 reasons to invite coconut into your life)

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I just adore coconut – it’s up there with mangoes and chocolate as being food from the gods.  But I have to say…I can see why a person might be tempted to buy a carton of coconut water or buy ready prepared coconut flesh, rather than buy a fresh coconut.  Maybe I don’t have the right tools for the job, but there was something comical about me trying to get the water out (which was relatively easy compared to getting into the flesh), then chasing it round the garden with a hammer (every time I bashed it it just sprang off in a new direction – probably something to do with being slightly afraid of whacking anything with a hammer).   Having said that, the cartons and ready prepared pots of coconut flesh pale in comparison to the taste of the fresh stuff (even though I believe the water is supposed to come from young green coconuts, and this was a brown hairy job – it still tasted amazing), so maybe I’ll just work at a new technique for getting into the things.  And as I haven’t figured out how to make coconut oil from a coconut yet,  I will continue to buy that one from the supermarket.

So as well as adoring the taste of coconut, I’m just so pleased with all of the benefits I get when I eat the stuff.  I mean the list just goes on and on (but you’re only getting 5 here or you’ll zone out, won’t you?!):

1. Coconut water is a great source of electrolytes.  Bit dehydrated?  Going for a run and need a isotonic drink?  Reaching for the a ‘sports’ drink (yuk!)?  Think again my friend.  These sports drinks are marketed on their ability to replace electrolytes, which are lost when you sweat (potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium).  These minerals are responsible for managing the electrical currents needed for your cells to work (think of your heart pumping) and also maintain your water balance, so of course replacing lost electrolytes is a good thing.  But the sports drinks you buy in the shop also usually contain lots of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners (and other yukky things that possibly don’t belong in your body)  Coconut water does have natural sugar in it, of course, no getting away from that.  But no artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours, nasties…so it gets my vote!

2. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (or MCFAs) (most other oils contains short or long chain fatty acids, so MCFAs are quite unusual).  MCFAs are easy to digest and are transported straight to the liver for conversion into energy.  So what you ask?  Can’t I just eat a banana or a slice of bread for energy?  Well MCFAs don’t involve ingesting glucose (which bananas and bread are converted to in your body), which in turn causes insulin release and potentially conversion of excess to fat…so I think I’ll take the MCFAs if I want quick energy (got enough of that stored fat already thanks!)  MCFAs are also thought to help increase metabolism and be beneficial for brain health (well your brain does consist of nearly 60% fat after all)

3. Some of those MCFAs are lauric acid, which is believed to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.  It also contains capric acid, another one with the anti-microbial benefits.  So I’m thinking if I eat this stuff regularly I am giving my immune system some help with fighting off the bugs!

4. Coconut oil is really stable at high temperatures…which means it won’t become damaged when used to cook things.  That’s a real benefit, as the polyunsaturated fats we’ve been encouraged to cook with for years (e.g. vegetable oils) do change at high temperatures, losing their health benefits and in fact becoming very damaging to health.  I won’t kid you, it does have a taste, so I wouldn’t fry eggs in it, but for most things I think the taste compliments the food.

5. Coconut oil makes a great moisturiser.  One, it smells divine (I had to get that in!), but it can also help soften skin and is believed to give some protection against the sun (without all those added chemicals you get in shop bought sunscreen – although obviously its SPF isn’t particularly high – about 5 I think).

Bonus point: it tastes amazing in curries – I use coconut oil, add some coconut milk or cream after the spices and whatever I’m adding to the curry, then maybe some dessicated coconut too.  OK, it may be coconut overload, but did I mention I love the stuff?

If you take anything away with you from this, get yourself a pot of coconut oil to cook with.  You really will be reaping health benefits from introducing it into your life.

 

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Miracles do happen!

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Yesterday I learned something surprising – miracles do happen!  My vegetable-hating teenage son scarfed down 1/2 pint of smoothie containing amongst other things spinach (and not just a few leaves either).  This is the soon to be man who sits at the dinner table heaving when I make him eat a sliver of kale, or indeed any other vegetable than a carrot.  Result!

So what’s my secret I hear you ask?  I bought a new toy.  One of those nutrient extractor smoothie makers (Nutribullet).  You fill half the cup with green leafy veg (we started with spinach because it’s pretty tasteless, but you can use what you like), then the rest with fruit.  Add in some ‘superfoods’ (nuts, seeds, flaxseed, goji berries) and water and press go.  It claims to extract the nutrients from the fruit and veg you put in (by this I guess it means it breaks down the cellular walls so your digestive system doesn’t have to, but maintains the fibre that you would lose if you just juiced them).  And it takes about 5 minutes to throw together.

So this is going to be my breakfast for a while (still on the breakfast theme here!)  But I can’t just have a load of fruit and veg for my breakfast, as that wouldn’t keep my blood sugar levels steady, thus giving me sustained energy for a few hours (and if you’ve been paying attention you’d know that 😉 )  Each day I experiment with something new, but here’s what I had yesterday morning, and it kept me going for about 3 hours before I started to feel hungry:

1/2 cup kale
handful blueberries
handful raspberries
1 apple
1/2 avocado (to give it a creamy texture)
1 carrot
1 inch ginger
mixture of water and coconut water
large handful almonds
1 tbsp ground flax with goji berries

I put plain bio yoghurt in it the day before, which is another way to get protein in.  Today I’m going to try some cashews.  It’s an exciting journey, all this experimentation, and I’m hoping my vegetable-hating teenage son is going to start reaping the health benefits of this sudden increase in nutrients.  Me too, because although I already eat plenty of vegetables every day, I intend to keep doing so as well as the addition of the smoothie.

In the one above I gave myself a range of vitamins and minerals: kale and carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, C and K; avocado contains vitamin E, zinc and essential fatty acids (EFAs); blueberries contain anthocyanidin (potent antioxidant); almonds contain protein and EFAs, plus a good dose of calcium, magnesium and potassium; flaxseed contains omega 3 EFAs, iron, vitamin B6; ginger can be very calming on the digestive system (good for nausea, not that I needed it!); apples contain a good dose of potassium and folate; and coconut water can help rebalance electrolytes, so is a good way to help maintain hydration levels.  Yup, I’m feeling well nourished after drinking that.

And ok, it doesn’t look like those smoothies you get out of tetra-packs in the supermarket.  It’s got texture and it’s a kind of green, sludgy colour.  But it tastes good!  For the kids I put a bit of manuka honey in, plus I swapped avocado for banana, as it’s sweeter (baby steps with these anti-vegetable teenagers).

This is going to be one of those purchases that turns out to be money well spent I feel.  Going off to make today’s concoction 🙂

green smoothie

To eat breakfast…or not to eat breakfast. That is the question!

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“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper”.  Ever heard that one (I’m sure you have!)?  The importance of eating breakfast is something which has been instilled in my head for as long as I can remember.  Well, until I started immersing myself in all things nutrition that is.  Now I’m not so sure.  The messages are confusing, there’s no doubt about it.

So let’s look at the benefits of eating breakfast (we’re going back to what’s in my head now, not necessarily fact).  Feel free to add your own:

1. It will kick-start your metabolism.  Seemingly without it your metabolism will fail to get going for the day.

2. It will stop you being hungry until lunchtime.  If you don’t eat breakfast you’ll be reaching for chocolate or crisps mid-morning, thus setting yourself up for a blood sugar roller coaster all day.

3. It helps maintain a steady weight.  See above.

4. It gives your brain some glucose (brain fuel), thus making your mind sharper and able to engage in intellectual tasks.

OK, so far so good, it’s what we’ve all been told for years.  But now there’s another school of thought, and that is that restricting when you eat offers the potential for many health benefits, including lowered inflammation levels, fixing insulin resistance (insulin resistance messes with blood sugar management and is believed to be a large factor in many diseases, including heart disease and obesity), normalizing appetite hormones so you have a better chance of eating according to hunger rather than desire, and lowering triglyceride levels (blood fats).  Restrict your eating to 8 hours a day they say, and you will reap these health benefits.  And there’s research to back this up!

I have to say, for me personally breakfast is a must.  I am always ravenous in the mornings.  I also know that going without food puts the body under stress, and being under stress invokes the release of the hormone cortisol.  The evolutionary design is for cortisol to facilitate a fight or flight reaction to keep you alive!  But my life is not in danger by skipping breakfast, so I don’t need the release of glucose that cortisol stimulates, which in turn causes insulin release and all the inflammatory, weight gaining, blood sugar roller coaster side effects that come with it.  It’s one of the issues around intermittent fasting that isn’t widely known – it just doesn’t suit everybody!

And therein lies the rub about what to believe: everyone’s an individual, and eating breakfast is a necessity for some, and not necessary for others.  We cannot impose a ‘one size fits all’ directive on whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  With naturopathic nutrition you will never be shoe-horned into a particular theory about diet, because everyone being an individual is one our most important principles!

However, there are things you can do to maximise the benefit of breakfast if breakfast is necessary for you.  Have you ever read the breakdown of some of the breakfast cereals out there?  OK, so you might think you are being healthy because they are fortified with vitamins (go on, I bet it’s crossed your mind!)  I happen to think if they didn’t mess with the grain in the first place they wouldn’t have to put some of those nutrients back in!  And some of them are nearly 80% carbohydrate, with very low levels of fat and protein.  If you’ve taken in what I’ve said about blood sugar management you’ll know this is not going to keep you going all morning, nor help you maintain/lose weight.  And don’t get sucked into the hype about milk.  To get calcium where it needs to be in your body you need magnesium and vitamin D, and milk is a relatively poor source of magnesium.  Seriously, please skip breakfast cereals and go for something sustaining.  Eggs, porridge with some ground flax, nuts and seeds, smoothies (made mostly with vegetables) with protein powder, wholegrain toast and oily fish…there are lots of sustaining combinations that will help keep insulin release at a trickle and keep you going for a lot longer (I make my own granola – recipe is further back on my Facebook page).

I’m really interested to know what works for you.  Leave a comment and share whether you eat breakfast or not, and if you do what keeps you going.

And now I’m going off to find some granola.  My tummy is rumbling!

 

Ahh, such sweetness!

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Do you remember the days when we didn’t know sugar had a sharp edge?  When you went on long car journeys and took some sweets along to suck, knowing they would help pass the time and possibly make the journey less boring?

You’d think I’d know better than be seduced by that memory wouldn’t you?  But I was caught out good and proper at the weekend.  I took the kids camping and in a nostalgic moment bought some boiled sweets, thinking ‘I’ll just have one or two’, forgetting that I’m a sugar monster and there’s no such concept as ‘one or two’ when it comes to me and sugar…

So 10 or so boiled sweets later, with a furry mouth and those horrible, painful little spots you get on the end of your tongue starting to form, I suddenly remembered what those supposedly innocuous little sweets were doing to me.

Sweeties are carbs, and carbs get broken down into glucose in the body, which is what it uses for fuel.  This should be a good thing, because we all need fuel, right?  Well yes, of course, but there’s not much call for energy when you’re sat on your bum driving!  Just about everything in our diet consists of carbs – bread, pasta, rice, fruit, vegetables, crackers, crisps, chocolate, sweeties, pastries…it’s all going to be broken down into glucose, which is another word for sugar my friends.  This results in rising blood glucose levels, prompting the body to release a shot of insulin to either move glucose into cells for energy, or into storage.  So chances are the vast majority of my glucose overload was swiftly moved into fat storage around my middle.  Because that’s what insulin just loves to do.   Excess glucose?  Just add it to the expanding midriff!

And not only that (yes there’s more harm done!)  How much insulin is released is related to how quickly blood glucose levels increase, so ramming several sweets down my neck meant lots of insulin, which in turn took my blood sugar levels slightly too low and left me craving more sweeties to bring my blood sugar back up (hence my inability to stop eating them!)  Like I said at the beginning…I really should have known better!

So there you go.  The moral of the story is don’t even start if you want to avoid the long list of horribleness that accompanies ‘just one or two’ sweeties!

  • furry mouth
  • pimples on tip of tongue
  • insatiable craving for more sweets
  • a bit more fat added to your middle

In my opinion sweeties are best avoided.  Stick to the sorts of carbs that have lots of fibre in them (veggies, wholegrain breads, pastas and rice, fruit in small quantities).  Learn from my mistakes people!