Poor carbs… it wasn’t long ago that carbohydrates were considered a foundation of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, bolstered by the popularity of low-carb diets, today the word “carb” has instead become synonymous with empty calories, high blood sugar, and obesity for many people. Here’s a bit of information to help you separate “carb fact” from “carb fiction.”
- Eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet. Carbohydrates are your body’s favorite fuel source. All carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is used to fuel your muscles, brain, and central nervous system. Every body needs carbohydrates!
- Quit eating bread, pasta and desserts. Carbohydrates are not only found in breads, grains, and simple sugars, but also in fruits, vegetables, milk products, and legumes such as beans. Protein such as meat, and fats such as butter and oils, do not contain carbs.
- Eating carbs will make me fat. Eating more calories than your body needs will make you gain weight. It doesn’t matter if the excess calories come from carbohydrates, fats or protein.
- Carbohydrates should be avoided by people with diabetes. They are in fact the nutrient most responsible for raising blood sugar. When the glucose from digested carbohydrates enters the blood stream, your blood sugar rises. Insulin helps this “sugar” move from your bloodstream into your cells. When you do not have enough insulin, or if the insulin is not working effectively (as in the case of diabetes), eating too many carbs in a short period of time can raise your blood sugar to unhealthy levels.
- Include nutrient rich carbohydrates in your diet every day. The amount of carbohydrates you need in your diet varies depending on many factors, including the amount of calories you need, your activity level, and any medical conditions such as diabetes (including your medications). Your physician or registered dietitian can tailor exactly how much you need, but, in general, carbohydrates should make up 45 to 55% of most diets. Less than 135 grams per day is considered insufficient for good health by most health professionals. For those with diabetes, about 2 to 4 servings (30-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal) and no more than 1-2 servings (15-30 grams per snack) is most often advised. Portion control and reading labels when it comes to carbs is important.
- A good meal plan spreads carbs evenly throughout the day. Spacing meals and snacks (including your carbs) evenly throughout the day helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Additionally, combining protein and/or healthy fats with carbohydrates helps to prevent blood sugar spikes and satisfy hunger.
- Not all carbs are created alike. Whole grain pasta, breads and grains is the “better-for-you” choice. They contain more nutrients than their refined counterparts, along with heart healthy fiber which slows blood sugar’s rise. Studies show that the risk for diabetes is reduced as more fiber is added to the diet. Non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers are also good sources of nutrients, while lower in carbohydrates than potatoes, corn and rice. When it comes to fruit, eating whole fruit is far superior to drinking juice, which is devoid of fiber and often more concentrated in sugar than fresh fruit. On the other hand, while sugary treats like cakes, cookies, pies, candies, sugars, honey, syrups, jams and other concentrated sweets can be included in any diet, their empty calories and dense carbohydrates make them less desirable when it comes to carbs.
- Reduced carbohydrate foods make it easier than ever to enjoy a healthy carbohydrate diet. Try my Chicken Caesar Wrap to satisfy you with “good-for-you” carbs. Add a piece of fruit and a glass of reduced or non-fat milk to round out your meal.
Marlene graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in nutrition from U.C.L.A. in 1986 and is one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the American Dietetic Association. Combining her love of food with her educational foundation, she has held such positions as Hospital Foodservice Director, Nutrition Professor, Cooking Instructor for the Columbus State Culinary Academy and as a national nutrition educator to chefs for the American Culinary Federation. Her passion for teaching others how to make healthy food taste delicious also extend to her private nutrition practice specializing in weight loss, diabetes, and wellness.
Marlene loves to teach (and to eat!); her energetic and upbeat style has made her a popular food and nutrition speaker for organizations such as the American Diabetes and American Heart Associations and sought after for television and radio appearances which have included affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and Shaw TV (Vancouver) and radio stations nationwide.