Let’s first start with the basics.
What exactly are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the #1 source of energy for the body. Defined as any of a large group of organic (carbon) compounds occurring in foods and living tissues, they can be broken down into three main types- sugars, starches, and fiber. They contain hydrogen and oxygen and typically can be broken down to release energy in the body.
- Foods that contain carbohydrates: grain, bread, pasta, cereal, rice, beans, fruits, starchy vegetables, milk, yogurt, sweets, and sugary beverages
- Foods that do not contain carbohydrates: fish, eggs, meat, cheese, oils and butter, mayonnaise and sour cream, artificial sweeteners, herbs and spices, and sugar free beverages
Low Carb Fad Diets
Have you ever heard of the Atkins Diet? Paleo diet? These fad diets are vary in carb and nutrient intakes and can cause decreases in energy, brain fogginess, nutrient deficiencies, low blood sugar and sugar cravings. Carbohydrates, or carbs for short, are necessary for the body to carry out normal metabolism and provide nutrition to your body.
However, it’s important to know that there are two types of carbohydrates, good and bad.
Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates
- contain fiber which assist in cleansing our digestive tract.
- contain nutrients for disease prevention and treatment.
- satisfying to the body and makes us feel full because of the nutrients they contain
- nutrients were taken out of the foods and added back in with chemicals
- mostly found in sugary beverages, junk food and highly processed packaged foods
- low in fiber and nutrients but higher in calories and fat
- contain empty calories, which can cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin secretion
Whole Grain Vs. Whole Wheat
Do you know the difference between whole grain and whole wheat?
Whole wheat means that the bread is made from the entire wheat kernel. Whole grain means that the bread can be made of any whole-grain kernel. That grain may be wheat or it could be another grain like spelt, oats, or barley. The bread might even be made using a mixture of different whole grains. It is best to seek the whole grain option for overall health benefits.
Sugar plays a large role in our diet as well.Just as there are good and bad carbohydrates, there are natural and added sugars. Natural sugars are found in foods such as fresh fruit and dairy products. Added sugars are found in foods such as syrups and packaged, processed foods. High sugar intake can lead to weight gain, fatigue, sweet cravings, irritability, hormonal changes, acne and yeast growth.
It is recommended that based on a 2,000 calorie diet men intake 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar per day, while women are recommended to intake 6 teaspoons of sugar or 24 grams of sugar per day.
From the Food Guide Pyramid to “My Plate”
Do you remember the Food Guide Pyramid? That pyramid is a thing of the past and “My Plate” is the new guide. Shown to the right, My Plate shows you what a balanced diet looks like. Here are a few tips improve your diet and overall health.
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make at least half of your grains whole grains.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Foods to Reduce
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals- and choose the foods with lower numbers.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
It’s important to remember that all foods can be included in a healthy, well-balanced diet. We just need to choose complex, whole (“good”) carbohydrate food more often. Get your nutrition from food and don’t depend on supplements to get in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.