The good, the bad and the truth about carbs

Carbohydrates, one of the three macronutrients in food, have become the enemy of many fad diets, making it difficult for us to determine whether or not we should be consuming them. A better question to ask is what kind of carbohydrates we should be consuming.

The fact is that not all carbohydrates can be grouped into one category and while some should be avoided, the right carbohydrates can be and should be a healthy part to our diet. Many of us associate “no-carb diets” with weight loss, however this dietary approach is short-lived and sacrifices our health for a lower number on the scale. The right kind of carbohydrates play the following crucial roles in our body:

*Serve as fuel for the central nervous system and the brain.

*Serve as a “primer” for the body’s breakdown and burning of fat.

*Prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue.

*Serve as the main fuel source for intense, strenuous exercise.

Many of us overly consume carbohydrates, which is easy to do in the form of pizza, Girl Scout cookies and bagels. A lower carbohydrate diet, which is low in bad carbohydrate and sprinkled with good carbohydrates, is an efficient and healthy way to lose weight.

Whole Grains

According to the government issued “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” at least half of the carbohydrates in our diet should be from whole grains. But what exactly is a whole grain? Whole grain means that the entire grain (bran, germ and endosperm) is intact. The outer shell, comprised of the bran and the germ are typically darker in color, which explains where brown rice and real whole grain bread get their coloring. The bran and the germ are the key, healthy components, which contain fiber and nutrients such as potassium, selenium and magnesium. The complex structure of a whole grain make it digested and processed slowly in the body. This creates a small, steady increase in blood sugar.

According to the American Institute of Cancer research, specific substances in whole grains may lead to a lower cancer risk. This type of carbohydrate is much needed fuel in order to have the energy for a hard workout.

Complex Carbohydrates — Good Carbs

A good way to classify carbohydrates is by how they behave in the body. Good carbs, also known as “complex carbohydrates” are processed slowly in the body. Other than whole grains, vegetables and beans are considered complex. These have a high nutrient value.

Simple Carbohydrates — Bad Carbs

If you want to limit your carbohydrate intake “simple carbohydrates” are the area to limit. These are processed very quickly in the body, spiking blood sugar. They bring very little nutrient value to the table. Although fruit can be considered a simple carbohydrate because it causes a quick release of insulin into the blood stream, it is still a high fiber, high vitamin nutrient-rich choice (opt for a piece of fruit as oppose to fruit choice).

Assess Your Plate for Weight loss

At the end of the day — good carbs or bad carbs — overeating this food group can make weight loss difficult. Although the exact amount of calories that should be consumed through carbohydrates depends on age, sex and physical activity level, the common school of thought is about 50 percent of your daily calories should come from carbs.

Rather than making whole grain pasta or brown rice the star of your meal, measure out one serving size and add a protein (chicken, fish, etc…) and a vegetable to fill the rest of your plate.

Tip of the week: Swap your simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates.

* Try a new whole grain (quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, barley).

* Order brown rice instead of white rice.

* Look for pasta made with brown rice or quinoa.

* Look for products that have “whole grain” as the first ingredient listed.

*Crowd out simple ones (any “refined or enriched” flour products) with high fiber carbohydrates (beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains).

References

*cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/carbs.html

*mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204