It seems lately that carbs have been designated the dieters ultimate enemy- they’re not to be trusted and avoided at all times. So are carbs really that bad or are they just getting a bad rap? Achieving overall carbohydrate health is essential toward a balanced diet and total wellness.
In actuality not all carbs are as terrible as they’ve been touted. There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Fortunately for us, it’s easy to achieve carbohydrate health and separate the good from the bad. As consumers we are able to reap health benefits associated with good carbs by choosing high-fiber carbs such as whole grains and vegetables and avoiding refined and processed carbs such as white bread and white rice.
To assume that all carbs are bad is unreasonable. Carbohydrates are needed fuel for our bodies. In a National Academies Institute of Medicine report from 2002, it recommends that in order for adults to meet the body’s daily nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease that they should get 45%-65% of their calories from carbohydrates. The same study also recommends that people focus on getting more good carbs with fiber into their diet.
According to WebMD we can reap health benefits of good carbs by choosing to consume carbohydrates full of fiber. Carbs that are naturally high in fiber slow down the absorption of other nutrients eaten at the same meal, including carbohydrates. This slowing prevents peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes. Certain types of fiber found in oats, beans, and some fruits help to lower blood cholesterol and fiber also helps people feel fuller. This in turn, helps moderate the amount of food you eat. There is also evidence to suggest that a high fiber diet may also help to prevent colon cancer and promote weight control. In addition, studies show an increased risk for heart disease with low-fiber diets.
“Another important point about fiber-rich foods is that they tend to be loaded with phytochemicals that appear to have anticancer functions,” says Nagi Kumar, PhD and director of clinical nutrition at the Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida.
“Pertaining to cancer, we’ve found 65 or so non-nutrients and nutrients that have action against cancer,” she says. “We’ve seen soy, lycopene, bicarbanol, to name just a few of these, have significant effect against various cancers.”
Along with these benefits and its role in weight maintenance, fiber helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, and diverticulosis.
The easiest way to include fiber and all of its health benefits in your diet is to eat plant foods. Plants such as fruits and veggies are quality carbohydrates that are loaded with fiber. Besides fiber, plant foods also deliver vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals along with grams of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Overall, a carb can’t be considered “good” without considering its fiber content.
Here are a few fiber recommendations from WebMD:
Men aged 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber a day.
Women aged 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber a day.
Because we need fewer calories and food as we get older, men over aged 50 should get 30 grams of fiber a day.
Women over aged 50 should get 21 grams of fiber a day.
Getting some fiber into almost every meal takes a little effort. Here are three tips:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Just eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will get you to about 10 or more grams of fiber, depending on your choices.
Include some beans and bean products in your diet. A half-cup of cooked beans will add from 4 to 8 grams of fiber to your day.
Switch to whole grains every single possible way (buns, rolls, bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, etc).
In a nutshell, carbohydrate health revolves around consuming plenty of high fiber carbohydrates and steering clear of bad carbs that strip away such beneficial fiber.