Bivins: Are carbohydrates good or bad for you? Here is the answer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Are you sad that you can never eat bread, pasta or sugar again?

If so, you are like most Americans who have read the recent warnings that carbohydrates cause weight gain and contribute to diabetes and heart disease. Low carb diets and cutting out carbs completely are widely thought of as ways to lose weight. But are carbs really all bad? Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates provide major health benefits and should be incorporated into your diet in moderation. While some carbohydrate-heavy foods like pasta and sugar lack nutritional benefits, others such as fruit and legumes are rich in nutrients. Carbohydrates provide three major health benefits.
• Provide energy

Carbohydrates give your body energy in the form of calories. All your activities need energy. Simple activities such as walking or even breathing need energy. The main source of energy required for your daily requirements comes from glucose. The source of glucose comes from the starches and sugars you eat. Without carbohydrates in your diet, you will lack the necessary energy you need throughout the day, and your body will not be able to function as productively.
• Prevent Diseases

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Complex carbohydrates are high in dietary fiber. Your body also slowly digests them. The fibrous food provides your body the ammunition needed to fight certain diseases like type 2 Diabetes and obesity. Fiber helps indigestion and helps keep cholesterol and heart diseases under control.
• Control Weight

Discrediting the myth that carbohydrates only make you gain weight.  Carbohydrates get blamed for weight gain, but if eaten properly, they can help reduce or control weight. A proper diet of fruits, vegetables and fibrous foods can actually help an individual with weight loss. A diet rich in carbohydrates can also help control muscle tone.  Carbohydrates aid in building muscle, so if you are exercising daily, it is important to incorporate carbohydrates into your diet. Carbohydrates can play a healthy role in your diet but it all depends on how many or how much you eat. According to the Mayo Clinic, 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. If you are eating too many unhealthy carbs, your body will store the extra energy as fat, which can lead to weight gain. Individuals should practice portion control with carb-heavy foods to avoid exceeding their calorie budget and to control their weight. Too many carbs might also negatively impact blood sugar levels. Be careful with refined carbs — sugar or white carbs such as white bread and pasta. They digest quickly and can cause a pronounced spike in your blood sugar levels. Over time, eating too many carbs can negatively affect your ability to control blood sugar levels. One of the biggest reasons that eating carbs in moderation is important is because people who eat a higher glycemic index diet — one full of carb-rich foods that cause blood sugar spikes — face a higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Choose carbs wisely and try to choose carbs that are from natural sources rather than through processed foods. With all the negative press, finding the right source and amount of carbs is a challenge.

Here are some tips to help you make healthy carb choices:

• Incorporate fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. Aim for whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar. They are a better option than fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar and have more calories. Whole fruits and vegetables add fiber, water and bulk, which help you feel fuller on fewer calories.

• Choose whole grains. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium, than refined grains.

• Stick to low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Choose the low-fat versions to help limit calories and saturated fat.

• Eat more beans and legumes. Legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils, are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat; contain no cholesterol; and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also have beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber.

• Limit added sugars. There are no health advantages to consuming any amount of added sugar. In fact, too much added sugar can lead to such health problems as tooth decay, poor nutrition and weight gain. If you follow a few simple guidelines, carbs are no longer the enemy of a healthy diet. By eliminating unhealthy choices and incorporating healthier options, not only will carbs do no harm but they also will contribute to improving your overall health. Source: Extension Daily, Angelica Torres

Here is one of my family’s favorite salad recipes. It’s called broccoli salad. Enjoy!

Broccoli salad

6 stalks broccoli, discard stalks, cut off heads, cut into small pieces

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 cup raisins

1 cup seedless green grapes, cut into quarters

1 cup salad topper (that includes pumpkin seeds, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and almonds, apples and pecans)

1 cup crumbled bacon

1/2—3/4 cup coleslaw dressing In a large bowl, toss ingredients, pour dressing over salad. Chill until time to serve. Source: Joy Wallace, St. Clair County Farmers Federation Women’s Leadership Committee