What’s with carbs? And what are carbs (better known as carbohydrates) anyway? When we say “carbs” most people think of pasta, bread, bagels and pizza. All true. However, carbs are also fruits and vegetables. Think “things that grow from the ground or are made from things that grow from the ground”. In the past carbs have gotten a bad rap in the weight loss arena. But before we throw all carbohydrates out with the pasta water, let’s not forget that there are “good” carbs and we need these as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
What is really in question here, are the grains. There are refined (above mentioned pasta, bagels, bread, pizza) and unrefined (brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, millet, spelt, etc.); one is far superior to the other. It is important to know the “good” from the “bad” to avoid the “ugly”. So I will make it simple: bad = anything processed and white. Unrefined is where it’s at in the land of good health. Refined carbs are like a sheep without its wool. Picture brown rice without its clothes; that would be white rice. When we refine carbs we strip them of they’re finest parts like fiber or bran, and important vitamins like B-6 and E, and minerals such as zinc, selenium, magnesium and potassium. Also these “refiners” turn to sugar very quickly in the body – not a good thing if you are battling heart disease, diabetes or weight loss. When it comes to sugar control it’s all in the “whites”.
The message here is not to cut back on carbohydrates, but to get most of your carbs from fruits, veggies and whole (unrefined) grains. So pay attention to how much of these empty calories you are consuming. One serving of grains is 1 slice of bread or ½ cup of rice, cereal or pasta. The recommendation is approximately 6 servings of grains per day. If you start your day with an egg and cheese on a roll and a sandwich for lunch, you’re pretty much done. A plate of pasta for dinner at your local restaurant is approximately 6 servings and can throw you off into carb-o-nation. (A very sleepy place to be.) This does not take into consideration all the miscellaneous items we eat like chips, fries, cookies and pretzels. So while we love our carbs, remember your plate should be predominantly vegetables, then protein, then grains.
And be adventurous! Don’t go for the plain-jane-grain. There are so many choices to enjoy, just take a trip down your local Whole Foods aisle and try something new. You will thank me.