Hating on carbs has been a popular nutrition fad for the past few years. Low-carb diets however, have not proved to be the long-term health solution that America needs. In order to understand what kind and how much carbohydrate we need, we have to keep a few things in mind:
1. Not all carbohydrates are created equal. There is a big difference in the nutrition of carbohydrates found in a glazed donut compared to the carbohydrates found in whole-grain pasta. The more complex the carbohydrates (whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, etc.) the more health benefits they provide since complex, unrefined carbohydrate sources provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. Refined carbohydrates (sugars and refined flours) lose a lot of those nutrients through the refining process.
2. Carbohydrates are not nutritional villains. Everyone’s body runs on carbohydrates. In the absence of carbohydrates in the diet, our bodies will work hard to convert proteins and fats into a usable fuel source (glucose). So in order for our bodies to function the way they were designed, we need a balanced intake of carbohydrates.
3. Excess and hidden sugars are really what we need to watch out for. Processed, packaged and restaurant foods are notoriously high in hidden sugars. Cookies, candy and soda pop aren’t the only hideouts for sugar. Condiments (barbeque sauce, creamy salad dressings, marinades), yogurts, juices and breakfast cereals all contain more sugar than you might think.
So how does one limit the amount of processed or refined carbohydrates in favor of the more complex?
· Don’t drink your sugar – go for water.
· Go whole grain – aim for 3 servings of whole grain per day.
· Check breakfast cereal labels – 5 grams of sugar or less per serving is great.
· Use condiments as they were intended – sparingly (ketchup is not a vegetable serving).
· Swap out creamy salad dressings for olive oil and vinegar based dressings.
· Cut the croutons and top your salad with nuts, seeds, or roasted chickpeas.
· Try a square of bittersweet chocolate for dessert instead of milk chocolate. (up to ½ as much sugar in bittersweet compared with milk chocolate)
· Go with corn instead of flour tortillas (corn tortillas are whole grain with 60 calories, 13 g. carbohydrate vs. flour tortillas 150 calories, 25 g carbohydrate).
· Eat out less often.