Monday, March 18, 2013

Nutrition Decoded: Carbs

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients, the other two being protein and fat. Carbs provide your body with energy in the form of calories. Each gram of carbohydrate is four calories, therefore you can multiply each gram of carb by 4 and figure out how many calories are carbs on your nutrition label.

With popularity of diets like Atkins, and South Beach carbs has gotten a bad rep, however our bodies do need them. Carbs are made up of glucose, known as blood sugar when in the bloodstream. There are simple carbs which are monosaccharides, glucose, fructose, and galactose. Then the complex carbs are polysaccharides, amylose, amylopectin, and dietary fiber. Glucose is the fuel your brain needs in order to function. So it's easy to see why cutting an entire food group can be dangerous. Personally, if my body needs something to function at its best, well then it's going to get it.

How much do we need?

The recommended daily amount for adults is 130 grams. With many well known institutes saying to aim for 45%- 65% of your daily caloric intake to come from carbohydrates. It is best to aim for half of these or more to be from whole grains.

So whats a good carb versus bad carb? 

Unfortunately most of the carbs we like to consume are considered "bad" carbs. This would include refined (white) foods, like rice, bread, and white pasta. When a food is refined it becomes stripped of parts that contain fiber, iron, and B & E vitamin. Which means zero nutritional value, and no brain power. Things that are also included with "bad" carbs that have a lot of added sugars are cereal, juices, granola, salad dressings, and ice cream. Sorry. When we eat foods like these there is a hormononal mechanism that occurs leading to a surge of blood sugar, and ultimately just as fast of a drop. And the next thing you know you're hungry again. Sad times.

But here comes the good news. Whole grains. Grains is a type of blanket term covering, brown rice, barley, wheat, oats, bulgur, and some of the other fun stuff you find at Earth Fare. I'd go with which ever one fits in your budget and has pretty packaging, treat yo'self!   Fresh fruits and vegetables also provide your body with carbs while also getting some vitmains, minerals, and fiber.

Here are some tips that can help make the switch so half your carbs are whole-grain.

  1. Switch refined, white, bread for whole grain, or whole grain bagels. 
  2. Popcorn is a whole grain, and can be made healthy with little or no added butter and salt.
  3. Cook half your barley or bulgur, and then freeze half for later.
  4. Mix it up. Try a quinoa salad. 
  5. Try brown rice, or whole wheat pasta instead of white.
  6. Experiment substituting buckwheat, millet, or oat flour for up to half the flour in pancake, waffle, or muffin based recipes. 
  7. Be a role model, snack on whole grain snacks. 
  8. Read the ingredients list. The first ingredient should be whole grain ingredient. This would be whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, oat, buckwheat, whole oats, whole-grain cornmeal, whole rye, or wild rice. 
  9. Check the nutrition label for fiber. A good source of fiber contains 10% to 19% of the Daily Value.
  10. Be a smart shopper. Foods that say 100% wheat, multi-grain, or stone-ground, sometimes don't contain whole grains at all. 
Please let me know if you have any questions, and after reading this post I'm sure your body is in need of some glucose!

Sources: 1