The Carbohydrate Controversy: How Carbs Fit Into a Healthy Diet
When you hear the word “carbs”, you might picture a loaf of bread or a bowl of pasta, but carbohydrates are actually present in almost every food we eat. Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, milk, and of course grains all contain carbs. Contrary to what some diets will tell you, carbs are essential to a proper diet, and your body cannot function properly without them.
Carbs are not simply “good” or “bad”. Carbs are simply a sugar source your body converts into energy. There are a few terms that are essential to understanding the carb debate:
a) Simple carbs - these carbs come from processed or refined foods, white flour and white pasta, most desserts, chips, and soda.
b) Complex carbs - these carbs come from foods that also contain fiber, nutrients, and vitamins, like whole wheat flour/bread/pasta, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies.
There are also three main kinds of carbs: fiber, starches, and sugars. Fiber and starches are complex carbohydrates. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and peas are rich in both fiber and starch. Sugar is a simple carb, often added to processed foods to enhance taste but also found in milk and fruit in the form of lactose and fructose.
The trouble with simple carbs is that when you eat them, your body absorbs them very quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar. Over time, this can increase the risk of diabetes and other health conditions. By limiting the simple carbs you eat, and/or replacing them with complex carbs, you help stabilize your blood sugar, plus you give your body more nutrition per meal. This doesn’t mean you need to cut simple carbs out of your diet entirely; here are some simple changes you can make that are healthy and sustainable long term:
1) Eat combinations of food:
Get into the habit of pairing simple carbs with protein and/or a healthy fat (aka, eat dessert as part of a balanced meal). The protein and/or fat will slow down digestion, keep you feeling full longer, and will help you avoid blood sugar highs (and lows!).
2) Choose whole grains when you can:
Nowadays there are a multitude of whole grain options. You can make tacos or gyros with whole wheat tortillas/pita, enjoy spaghetti made with whole wheat pasta, have a delicious piece of avocado on whole wheat toast, or even make chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour.
3) Diversify your complex carb menu!
Eating healthier doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to the same foods. Give these a try: Grains: Quinoa, oats, and buckwheat are unique and delicious whole grain choices. They give you a good amount of complex carbs, fiber, and protein all in one serving and are versatile enough to be eaten at any meal. Vegetables: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beets, and cassava (yuca) are full of complex carbs, as well as fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium.
For fruits rich in complex carbs, go for grapefruit, tart cherries, prunes, blueberries and bananas.
Wherever you are in your natural health journey, we are here to support you! Check out our other blog posts for more natural health tips, or schedule a consultation with Dr. Jones here.
Thanks for reading & stay well!