Carbs, Glorious Carbs!
Good carbs, bad carbs! It’s so confusing! Just out of curiosity, I googled “carbohydrates.” There is an amazing amount of conflicting information out there. Food Network had a really questionable top-ten list that included popcorn, and WebMD had a completely different list that included whole grain bread and pasta. So who’s right? Who should we believe? And should we care?
Yes, we should definitely care!
As the daughter of a Type 1 diabetic father and a Type 2 diabetic mother, I know that how your body processes carbohydrates has a profound impact on your health. What many people don’t realize is that if they eat a lot of processed foods, they are probably on a very high-carbohydrate diet. And research shows that a high-carbohydrate diet can lead to health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even mild cognitive impairment.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already aware that processed foods, sweets, juices, sauces, and dressings are loaded with sugar, which is a very poor source of carbohydrates. Those are the obvious carbs to avoid.
But what about starchy carbs like bread, cereal, rice, potatoes and pasta?
Well, they break down into simple carbs, too, and can ultimately have the same effect on your body as sugar does, so you want to avoid those foods as well.
But what about whole grains, high-fiber breads, oats, corn, wheat, and brown rice? Aren’t they good for you? Don’t we need the fiber they provide?
The government says that whole grains are so good for you that you should get a whopping 45-65% of your calories from them! However, the truth is that many people have health problems like arthritis, inflammation, and auto-immune diseases due to the gluten contained in those foods. And while there is some fiber in those foods, they can still make your blood sugar levels spike.
Most people think of carbs as just starches and sugars. But don’t forget that fruit and vegetables are carbs, too!
Last summer at a blueberry patch, I chatted with a man who proudly told me that he no longer had diabetes because of his no-carb diet — as he popped blueberries into his mouth! Not to take anything away from him, because he totally had the right idea. He had replaced the unhealthy carbs with healthier, complex ones (like blueberries!). But like a lot of people, he only considered carbs to be sugars and starchy foods. But fruits and vegetables are carbs, too! And they’re the carbs we want to eat!
The healthiest carbs to eat would be kale, broccoli, lettuce, celery, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, snap peas, artichokes, onions, etc. They are much lower in calories, more filling, higher in fiber and loaded with nutrients. Even the American Diabetes Association and The American Heart Association recommend eating these foods over empty grains!
The bottom line: there is nothing that a starch can do for you that a vegetable can’t do better!
Don’t we need carbohydrates to survive?
I thought you’d never ask! Here it comes….
There’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate!
There. I said it. It’s true! Ask your overweight doctor and watch him squirm! While we need to eat essential fats and proteins, we don’t need to eat carbohydrates. The body can produce carbohydrates from the fat and protein we consume. We only need to provide enough carbohydrates to meet the needs of glucose-dependent tissues like the brain, 50-100 grams per day for most people (exceptions: athletes and other highly active people).
So What Are the Healthiest Carbohydrates For Me To Eat?
The best carbohydrates to eat are in the produce section of the grocery store:
onions, peppers, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, green beans, zucchini, cauliflower, mixed greens, spaghetti squash, broccoli, carrot sticks, cabbage, lemons, garlic, asparagus, and sweet potatoes.
And fruit like:
Berries, apples, strawberries, oranges, lemons.
These simple changes can put a healthier diet and a healthier life well within reach.
See you in the produce aisle!
What do you think?