Are Carbs Bad?...The short answer is no.
This is a question I get asked often with so many low carb diets trending right now.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for the body and the brain. So why are so many people trying to reduce them? With nutrition science telling us to move towards a more plant-based diet, this certainly involves including more vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains…all wonderful carbohydrates!
Many individuals are losing weight on the various low carb diets like Keto and Paleo diets. There are also some benefits for these types of dietary approaches, especially for certain individuals. Let’s first consider why these diets are successful for many people. The primary reason is the exclusion of two types of food…sugar and white bread. Sugar, including all types of sweeteners, and foods made with processed white flour have inundated our food supply gradually for over 50 years. Take a look at the number of packaged foods in your pantry and refrigerator and if you’re like so many people, many of them contain some type of sweetener.
It’s a similar story with white flour. Don’t just think about the bread you buy. Think bread, rolls, wraps, bagels, English muffins, pastas, cereals, etc, etc. Be wary of foods claiming to be “Whole Grain” or “Made with Whole Grain”. They may not be 100% whole grain. Check the ingredient statement. If any of the grains listed do not use the word “whole” then the product is not 100% whole grain (with the exception of brown rice – if it just says rice, it’s white rice).
So what should we do? First move towards foods that do not contain added sugars or sweeteners (including artificial sweeteners) and find 100% whole grain options. Also look for less processed foods, especially whole grains. Did you know that soft texture 100% whole grain breads have the same effect on blood sugar as white bread? Look for dense, hearty, nutty, seedy European style whole grain breads. Or better yet, look for sprouted grain products. These are the least processed types of whole grains.
Let’s also consider portions and balance of foods in our diet. There are so many nutrient dense carbohydrate foods…vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. When we shift the focus of our plates to more plant foods, first go to vegetables. These should make of the majority of your plate. They average about 30 calories per serving and we need 6 to 8 servings each day. Then look at fruit. Wonderfully healthful and averaging 60 calories per serving, include 2-3 servings per day. Include a variety of whole grains but keep portions to ½ to 1 cup depending on the food. Include different grains in your diet. Next include legumes (beans) daily and often instead of animal protein. High in protein and fiber, these are powerhouse carbohydrates.
Finding the best foods and the best balance of these foods can be challenging in today’s food culture. Unsure what foods and what balance is best for you? I’m here to guide you on your Plate Journey.