The Healthiest Carbohydrates
Though they are truly nutritious macronutrients, they are commonly deemed the bad guy in our state of obesity. Carbs are often blamed for weight gain and avoided like the plague by the many low-carb dieters out there. However, speaking from personal experience, carbohydrates will NOT make you fat. It's eating too much of the wrong types that can.
Carbohydrates are the fuel for life, providing the preferred energy source for both brain and muscle. Rather than dodging this source of nutrition altogether, all you need to do is select the right ones.
Before I begin to explain what makes one carbohydrate better than another, let’s discuss the basics of this macronutrient.
Carbohydrates are one of several types of energy sources in our diet, right alongside protein and fat. Carbs contain sugar, starch and fiber. With the exception of dietary fiber, carbs are broken down into sugar (a.k.a. glucose) in order to fuel our body. Plant-based foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables are all great sources of carbohydrates, though they are also found in dairy products and added to many sweets and beverages.
Where do the majority of carbs come from in YOUR diet?
The Best Sources of Carbohydrates
The best sources of carbohydrates for health are those from fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Here are a few tips for each food group:
Fruit consists primarily of carbohydrates, providing a great source of easily digested energy (sugar). Naturally paired with fiber, it can help to reduce the impact on your blood sugar. Whether you prefer your fruit fresh, frozen or canned, you are making a wise decision for your health as fruit is a frequently packed with disease fighting antioxidants. My only request is when you are searching for frozen or canned versions is to opt for those packed in juice rather than syrup to reduce the amount of added sugars in your diet. Now, if you were to opt for fruit juice instead, you will find a version of fruit where all of the fiber has been stripped away thereby enabling the rollercoaster ride of blood sugar commonly felt after consuming candy or soda-pop.
Vegetables are amazing. Rich in nutrition, yet light in calories. However, while all vegetables do contain some carbohydrates, the amounts certainly vary. Water-packed cucumber has far less carbohydrates than a savory serving of kabocha squash, yet that does not make one better than the other, as both are terrific additions to a nutritious diet. Aim for variety and enjoy any and all carbs found in your veggies.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines continue to push the advice offered back in 2005, “Make half your grains whole”. In other words, out of all of the bread, pasta and cereal you choose to eat each day aim to make 50% or more whole grain versions. How can you tell? Make sure WHOLE is used within the first ingredient (whole grain rolled oats, whole wheat, whole grain barley, whole grain brown rice, etc.). Whole grains are preferred by health experts around the globe. They contain the nutrient and fiber filled components often stripped away in the refining process used to make refined grains such as white bread or all-purpose flour. Up to 80% of the nutrients are stripped away during the process, including those energizing B vitamins.
Not So Healthy Carbs
While it may seem obvious when it comes to spotting the healthy carbs in your supermarket, do you know which ones are not quite so great?
This is where things may become tricky. Some not-so-health carbs may even include whole grains, but there may still be a great deal of added sugars.
A healthy rule of thumb is to limit added sugars to (excluding fruit and milk) to 40 grams per day or 10 teaspoons (four grams is in one teaspoon). This may seem easy until you realize it’s common to find this amount or more in an American sized soda-pop. Simply try to become more aware of what you are eating is all that I ask.
Carbohydrates are certainly not the enemy.
In fact, they are found in the food groups most highly recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans! What well balanced diet would be void of vibrant veggies, flavorful fruit and hearty whole grains?
Eat and enjoy!