Carbs continue to be a source of controversy in many American’s minds. Are you one of the countless Americans suffering from total carb confusion? I suspect many of you are, which is a shame because doing your carbs right is the second most powerful nutritional strategy available to you to protect your health. And when you look at the spectacular body of science related to the topic of carbs and health and carbs and body weight, the situation is crystal clear – meaning some carbs are good for you while others are not. The purpose of this column is to set you straight on this issue – liberating you from any doubt, confusion or reticence you have towards this vital food group.
Let me establish first and foremost that I’m not an advocate of low carb dieting or low carb living. I am a huge proponent, however, of right carb living. Have your carbs – and eat them too – just be sure they are the right ones.
Before I tell you about the delicious categories of make-me-healthier right carbs, I have to tell you about the wrong ones:
The Great White Hazards -
There is one and only one category of carbs that I want you to minimize – namely the highly refined, also known as high glycemic “Great White Hazards.” These infamous foods include: white flour products, white rice, white potatoes, and sugar/sweets. I collectively refer to these foods as the “Great White Hazards” because we know they can:
- Promote fat storage
- Perpetuate appetite
- Promote cardiovascular disease
- Increase the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Promote certain cancers
The teacher in me wants to make sure you understand how these staples of the modern American diet have so many adverse effects in the human body. The simple answer lies in the fact that these particular carbohydrates are so quickly and easily digested. We have learned over the past decade that eating rapidly digested carbs results in sudden spikes of blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels that adversely effect human metabolism and ultimately lead to the health risks noted above. To stay on the right track, keep the wrong carbs to a minimum. Remember this simple, nutritional motto – See White, Think Fat, Think Disease!
Now that we have tackled the wrong carbs, I want to make sure you have a firm grasp on the right carbs. When it comes to your health and body weight, the difference between the wrong carbs and the right carbs is like night and day. In fact, including more of the right carbs in your diet can facilitate weight loss while simultaneously protecting you from a host of dreaded, chronic diseases. There are 4 delicious categories of right carbs: whole grains, beans, fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are such an important nutritional topic that I will devote an entire column to them in the future. For now, I would like to expound on the virtues of the other right carbs.
I consider beans the most underutilized, economical superfood nature has to offer. They are a nutritional powerhouse – loaded with healthy vegetable protein, high in fiber and teaming with B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial phytochemicals. Additionally, they are digested more slowly which means they will not spike your glucose and insulin levels like the Great White Hazards. In other words, they fill you up without filling you out. Finally, we also know that beans lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease, stabilize blood glucose levels, improve gastrointestinal health, lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of some cancers.
When I say “beans,” I mean any of the delicious 24 varieties available – black beans, chick peas, butter beans, field peas, lentils, etc. Whether canned, fresh, frozen or dried, all beans are tasty, filling, cheap, versatile, convenient and fantastic for your waistline and your health.
By all means, I want you to have your bread and your cereals. Your job is to simply be sure they are always truly 100% whole grain. True whole grains provide a wonderful package of health promoting nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber and are more difficult to digest than their refined, nutrient-stripped “Great White Hazard” counterparts. People that eat the most whole grains have greater long term success with body weight and experience less heart disease, cancer, diabetes and digestive illness.
To be sure you are getting only “whole grains” and not refined flour, make sure the label on your bread or cereal products say “100% whole grain.” If the ingredient list contains “wheat flour,” “enriched wheat flour” or any other grain without the word “whole” written in front of it, it’s nothing more than refined flour disguised as the healthier option!
It is vital to your health and your waistline to swap out the wrong carbs for the right ones. By eating “miracle” beans and “great” grains in lieu of the Great White Hazards, you will be taking proactive and powerful steps to maximizing your wellness and vitality.
Thank you Dr. Ann for clearing that up. In addition, I would like to add, if you are an athlete or weekend warrior or want the best results from a workout, carbs are an essential part of your nutritional strategy. If you want the power to perform at your best while working out and your body to properly recover, carbs have to be in the mix, just keep to the healthy carbs.
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