(My sincerest apologies for the hiatus, caused by life situations beyond my control. Please look forward blog installments now posted on Fridays!)
Carbohydrates have become the point of quite a bit of dietary confusion in recent years. From all-carb diets to no-carb diets, all claim to be the next big breakthrough in achieving the body you’re looking for.
Good or bad carbs?
It’s time to get down to the facts.
There are two classifications (simple & complex) and three main types of carbs. These are
- Starches (also known as complex carbohydrates)
- Sugars (“fast acting” carbs)
Carbohydrates are not all bad, by any means. The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. An enzyme called amylase helps break down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is used for energy by the body. Unfortunately in the foods we eat today, there is a frightening amount of added sugars that we usually don’t even know about.
The average American adult takes in about 20 teaspoons of added sugars every day.
That’s about 320 calories, which can quickly add extra pounds. Many adults simply don’t realize how much added sugar is in their diets.
“Added sugars, also known as caloric sweeteners, are sugars and syrups that are added to foods at the table or during processing or preparation (such as high fructose corn syrup in sweetened beverages and baked products),” explains Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokeswoman with the American Dietetic Association.
Added sugars supply calories but few or no nutrients, Gerbstadt says.
“Americans are very aware of low-fat diets and because of that we’ve been eating more fat-free and low-fat products,” notes Shanthy Bowman, USDA food scientist and author of a recently published study on sugar in the American diet.
“But what many people don’t know is that in many of these products, sugar is being substituted for fat, so we’ve really been trading fat for sugar,” Bowman says.
The USDA recommends that we get no more than 6% to 10% of our total calories from added sugar — that’s about nine teaspoons a day for most of us.
The natural and added sugars are combined on the nutrition labels of foods and come under all kinds of different names, which makes determining them apart confusing. Be aware of that while we focus on something easier to swallow:
What is the best type of carbs?
While they all can have their benefits, the best for the majority of us not running a marathon is fiber. It’s surprisingly easy to get and is a fantastic source of nutrition at every meal.
On top of that, many fibrous sources are considered low-glycemic, which makes them even better for you, especially great for diabetics or those with heart disease… and there are many delicious sources to choose from.
For good health, adults need to try to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day.
They typical American does not consume nearly enough fiber in their diet, so any increase in dietary fiber in may be beneficial.
Most of us only get about half of what is recommended.
Fiber contributes to digestive health, helps to keep you regular, and helps to make you feel full and satisfied after eating. Can’t go wrong there, huh?
Good sources of dietary fiber include:
- Beans and legumes. Think black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chick peas (garbanzos), white beans, and lentils.
- Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (apples, corn, beans) and those with edible seeds (berries).
- Whole grains such as:
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole grain cereals. (Look for those with three grams of dietary fiber or more per serving.)
- Whole grain breads. (One slice of bread should have at least three grams of fiber. Another important factor: look for breads where the first ingredient is a whole grain, i.e. whole wheat or oats.)
- Nuts — Great for a high-energy snack and in smoothies.
Ask yourself: Why take fiber supplements when there are delicious edible options?
Please note that it is important that you increase your fiber intake gradually to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids to prevent constipation.
In short, carbs are an excellent source of nutrients, diverse, and delicious. It’s ALRIGHT to enjoy delicious, carb-y goodness. Think before you eat, and eat the best kind (and amount) of carbs for YOU.
Have a favorite carb-friendly recipe? Post it to www.facebook.com/EverchangeFitness!