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Looking at Carb Quality

Why it may be more important to look at the TYPES of grains we eat instead of limiting them

It seems like every year there is a new diet fad going around that villanizes one of our favorite foods. Each macronutrient has had its hay day for being the “worst thing you can eat”, and lately it’s been carbohydrates! When you think about the word carb, do you think of something “bad” that you “shouldn’t eat”? Many people do! However, carbohydrates are incredibly important for our overall health and well being, and for most people, should be the bulk of our diet. Let’s break down why that is.

 

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a rather large group of food. It includes grains (what you might typically think of when you hear carb: bread, pasta, rice, ext.), fruits, and vegetables. Carbohydrates are also present in things like beans and legumes and dairy products.

Simply put, carbohydrates break down into glucose. Glucose (otherwise known as sugar) is the #1 source of energy for your brain, so it’s certainly not a bad word! Despite all carbohydrates breaking down into some form of sugar, they are several different types of carbs.

Simple carbohydrates (sugars) are the most basic carbohydrates. They break down in the body faster, and are used for energy or stored in the liver or muscles for later use. Naturally occurring sugars are found in things like fruits, vegetables, and milk. Sweeteners found in things like candy, processed foods, and beverages like soda, are also simple carbohydrates.
 
Complex carbohydrates (starches and fiber) are a string of simple carbohydrates together, so they take longer to digest and absorb. Starches include breads, cereals, pastas, and certain types of vegetables (like potatoes, corn, and peas). Starches can be whole (like a whole grain bread or rolled oats) or refined (like white flour products or a quick oat).
 
Fiber, also a complex carbohydrate, cannot be fully digested or broken down by the body. It has many benefits, including helping you feel full, helping to control cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as promoting good gut and bowel health. It is found in many plant foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and seeds!
 

The Benefits of Eating Carbs

Carbs bring a LOT of benefits to the table.

Grains are a great source of potassium, selenium, fiber, zinc, and B Vitamins. For many people they help tie meals together, and when they are enjoyed with protein and fat they can be very filling!

Fruits and vegetables are LOADED with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, providing a plethora of health benefits when included regularly. 

Even “extras” like candy, cakes, brownies, and refined grains can have a place in a healthy eating pattern! For many people these types of foods hold personal significance, whether it’s tradition, social gathering, or just a favorite food. They tend to be higher in added sugars, as well as other additives (like preservatives, emulsifiers, and sodium), so they should be enjoyed in moderation as opposed to in excess. 

So why all the hate?

So, with all that said, why is the low-carb or ‘keto’ diet so popular?

Low-carb diets were initially recommended as a therapeutic dietary pattern for epilepsy. Increasing evidence has shown that some chronic conditions do benefit from a carbohydrate controlled diet – like type 2 diabetes or certain gastrointestinal diseases. (x) HOWEVER, a low-carb diet is NOT a one-size-fits-all fix, and should only be used with appropriate knowledge and guidance. 

Focusing on Quality

If you find that the majority of your carbohydrate intake is more processed or refined carbs, then you may consider adjusting the quality of your carb intake as opposed to just the amount! Enjoying things like pastries, white bread products, and sweets on occasion and in moderation will not make or break your health. Focusing on whole-grain, high fiber, quality carbs will help keep you full and allow you to balance meals appropriately. 

Try to avoid the “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to carbs. Cutting out an entire group of foods, especially the largest group of foods, is not realistic or sustainable for most individuals. On top of that, and as detailed above, carbs have a lot to offer you!

Have more questions about macronutrients or how many carbs you should eat for your goals? Consider speaking with one of our nutrition experts today!

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