Wellness Wednesday – The Truth About Carbohydrates

Yes, yes, I’m about to inform you on one of the most talked about, but largely misunderstood, elements of nutrition: carbohydrates.  Not too long ago, the importance of eliminating carbs from our diet became a common topic of conversation and practice.  We were warned of the fattening carbs in our bread, cereal, fries, rice etc. and as a result it seemed every cbreadelebrity cut out these foods and lived off of fruits and vegetables and all those organic foods we laypeople have never heard of and can never really afford.  As a result, this past fad gave a lot of people (myself included) a bad perception of carbohydrates.  In my attempts to live a more healthy, whole life, I’ve found that most foods that we eat, even fruits and vegetables, contain carbohydrates.  However, what I did not know, but have now learned, is that there are different kinds of carbohydrates, all of which are necessary in our diets, but need to be understood in order for us to make better, portion-controlled decisions, producing a more balanced diet.

There are three kinds of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber.

Sugar carbohydrates can be anything from the natural sugar in fruit to the white sugar we use to make our favorite cookies.  This includes the often warned-against high fructose corn syrup, which is actually not that much different than regular sugar (for many scientific reasons I don’t care to go into right now, but you may further investigate on your own or with the help of the sources sited at the bottom of this article).

Carbohydrates which contain a high amount of starch include vegetables like peas and corn, beans like pinto, black and kidney, lentils, and grains like oats and rice.  Most starchy carbs aren’t bad for the body, but the best are the ones which are referred to as “whole grain,” which means it contains all three parts that make-up a grain (bran, germ, and endosperm).    With all three parts still intact, you get fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and starch.  When we eat “refined” grain, we only get the starch and miss out on the other good stuff.

fruits and vegetables

Fiber carbohydrates are by far the most beneficial in our daily diets, by also the most neglected.  Fun fact: fiber only comes from plant foods.  Meaning?  Fruits, vegetables, and beans are an amazing source of fiber.  Eating about 25-30 grams of fiber every day can help keep cholesterol levels down, weight in control, and keeps you full after a meal.

All in all, the best carbs are the ones chock-full of fiber.  But to help you decipher when you’re out to eat or visiting the grocery store, here are three tips for choosing the best of the best in carbohydrates:

1. Look for fruits and vegetables with edible skins and seeds  (ex. apples, beans, corn, berries)

2. Try to skip the meat one night for dinner, and instead go for some legumes, like beans, plegumeseas, or lentils.

3. Avoid foods with added sugar by checking out the ingredients on the label; look for things like fructose, molasses, syrup or even honey  (especially on your breakfast cereal box).

So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed this run-down on carbohydrates and feel at least a little more enlightened on their nutritional value.  For more information on the subject, visit:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/carbohydrates

http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/carbs.html

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html