In recent times, the word carbohydrates or “carbs,” has been associated with negative connotations within most of the general public. In many people’s eyes carbs are often associated with weight gain, and as unhealthy. With so many popular diets out there such as the Atkins, South Beach, Stillman, and Dukan diets that advocate low-carbs, it is no wonder that carbs have gotten a bad reputation. The truth is that there are different kinds of carbs and not all are created qual. It is the type of carbohydrate and the amount that is consumed that is important. For starters, what is a carbohydrate? Carbs are the main source of energy that our body uses for normal function. They supply the muscles, brain and central nervous system the energy required to function properly. When carbohydrates are consumed, the body converts them into glucose (sugar), which is then used as fuel for cells in our bodies.
There are 3 different kinds of carbohydrates:
- Sugar (also known as Simple) carbohydrates are fast acting and are digested quickly for quick energy. These often increase sugar levels in the blood quite rapidly. These carbs can be naturally found in foods such as fruits, fruit juices, honey, and milk. Other forms of sugar are those that are added to foods and drinks such as sweets, chocolates, and soft drinks. Provide little to no nutrients.
- Starch (or Complex) carbohydrates are digested slower and provide a steady stream of energy throughout the day. Starchy foods include whole grains, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, breads, rice, corn, and crackers to name a few.
- Indigestible carbohydrates are also known as fiber. Fiber comes solely from plant foods and there is no fiber in animal products. Fiber is not digested by the body. Fiber plays a big role in digestive health, and also helps you feel fuller and satiated after a meal. Good sources of fiber include different kinds of nuts (almonds, walnuts, and peanuts), whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereals and whole grain breads. It is recommended to get 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.
What were to happen if you were to take up a low carbohydrate diet?
- With little glucose available for energy, the body will use fat as an energy source and although this may sound appealing, it is not what it seems. There is an incomplete breakdown of fat and the body produces ketones. These accumulate in the blood and in the urine and cause a state of ketosis which can cause headaches, nausea, bad breath, mental and physical fatigue, dehydration and headaches. Due to the lack of fiber, constipation is also common.
- Due to the elimination of carbs, protein intake is much higher and can result in kidney stones down the road
- Increased intake of trans and saturated fats is more likely with low carb diets, and may increase your risk of heart disease.
- When on a low carb diet, fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grain products are often reduced, which usually helps combat many cancers, without them, increased chances due to the lack of vitamins and antioxidants in the diet is more prevalent.
Tips to include carbohydrates in the diet in an effective and controlled way
- Eat 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
- Consume servings of low-fat and non-fat dairy products a day
- Consume plenty of whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, brown rice, etc..
- Limit fruit juices, processed white flours, fried vegetables, and white rice to no more than two servings a day
- Try to only eat on occasion the following: Sweets, cakes, baked goods, sugar, honey, and carbonated drinks
- The recommended intake of carbs is 45-65% of your daily calories, which is roughly 225-325 grams of carbs (on a 2000 calorie diet) (50%-65% Carbohydrates are for those that participate in high levels of activity daily)
- If trying to reduce weight lowering processed carbs in your diet can be helpful, don’t eliminate carbs completely, cut back to 150 grams per day ~600 total calories. Avoid processed foods with added sugars and sugary drinks.
- Focus on eating complex carbs and choose the whole grain tortillas when ordering wraps or burritos at either Sam’s Place or at The Market.
- Choose the whole grain bread when ordering a sub at the Quiznos® locations on campus.
- Opt for brown rice at the Asian lines if available.
For more information visit:
Hospitality Dietitian | Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ricardo Blanco, Nutrition Student Assistant