Monday, September 13, 2010

Carbs 101

There seems to be a lot of carb confusion nowadays in the media and in the everyday American household.  Carbs seem to get a bad rap because of "low-carb" dieting hype.  But are carbs really bad for you?  Will eating a piece of bread cause you to blow up like a balloon?

The answer is no; unfortunately there is frequent misunderstanding about the effect carbohydrates have on our bodies- complex, high-carbohydrate foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes & whole-grains) are necessary for health because not only do they provide ENERGY but they provide essential nutrients that our bodies need. Carbs should constitute more than half of the calories we eat every day!

Some carb facts:

  • Carbs are the MAIN source of energy for our bodies; and adults need about 130g carbs per day to provide enough energy to function
  • People have a misconception about carbs; when they think carbs, they think: "breads, pasta, baked goods, sugar, potatoes,  and other foods that are high in fat and sugar"  YES these are carbs, but not the ones we should be bulking up on.  Ironically, North Americans get half of their energy from processed carbohydrates (good) but from white bread, soft drinks, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, sugars, syrups, jams, and potatoes (bad).

  • Low-carb diets like Atkins or South Beach DO make you lose weight fast- but its WATER WEIGHT and will come back once you stop dieting.
  • Fiber is an element of complex carbohydrates that is essential for a healthy digestive system, decreasing cholesterol, and helping us to feel fuller longer
  • Alternative sweeteners ( Splenda, Stevia, etc.) have been proved safe for consumption and the daily limit is higher than one person could ever consume in one day
So what should we do?
  1. Have balanced eating habits that include nutritious carbohydrates including fruits, veggies, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  2. Choose fiber-rich foods (see picture below!)

  1. Eat less highly-refined/processed carbs
  2. Sugar-free is better than added, caloric sugars (natural sugars are the best though)
  3. Don't deprive yourself; if you want a brownie- have one. Food is to be ENJOYED! But, control your portions and fuel your body each and everyday with the nutrients it needs so that a little splurge doesn't turn into a lifestyle habit!
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