Our bodies need carbohydrates to survive, as it is the body’s preferred energy source. Many people believe that carbohydrates only come in the form of bread, pasta and cereals, but that certainly isn’t true. Many healthy foods like vegetables, potatoes, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils and fruit all contain a significant amount of carbohydrates. So while our body needs about 50 percent of its calories from carbohydrates, there are much healthier options outside of refined carbohydrates.
It is important to differentiate the types of carbohydrates. There are simple and complex, sometimes known as “bad” and “good carbohydrates,” respectively.
Smart Carbs- Simple carbohydrates are candy bars, soda, baked goods, while complex carbs include whole grains, fruits and beans. Complex carbohydrates (A.K.A.) “smart carbs” will offer fiber for gastrointestinal health, slow released carbohydrates for sustained energy levels, and fuel for the brain while simple carbohydrates create a surge in blood sugar that wreaks havoc on energy levels – think spike and crash! Simple foods In order to reduce carbohydrates in a healthy manner, reduce cakes, cookies and candy consumption. Carbohydrates in the form of cakes, cookies and candy are some of the most harmful foods to our health. While it is almost impossible to completely eliminate from the diet, it’s a wise decision to use these foods as special “once in awhile” treats rather than consuming daily.
Simple drinks - Also, aim to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages; As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I often try to refrain encouraging clients to eliminate certain foods entirely from their diet but this is an exception. There are no health benefits to be gained from sugar-sweetened beverages. Plus, these products like soda and sugar-added juice are somewhat addictive so going cold turkey is going to be a huge improvement to your overall health.
Portions - While pasta itself is not unhealthy, portions of it often are. Cut pasta portions in half. Pasta portions that you would receive at a restaurant are typically way bigger than they need to be, sometimes two, three or even four times an actual serving. As a general rule of thumb, take half of a pasta entrée home or split it with a friend.
Many, many foods contain carbohydrates. Even foods that most people think of as just protein or fat, for example peanut butter, contains carbohydrates.
Complex foods - While eliminating breads, pasta and cereals can decrease daily simple carbohydrate consumption, one may still be consuming a large percentage of carbohydrates. While eating carbohydrates isn’t unhealthy, a smart carbohydrate diet is a much healthier approach than a low carbohydrate diet. Healthy diets include a variety of foods and are rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains.
Many health organizations urge people to take a safe and proven route to losing and maintaining weight by including healthy sources of carbohydrates. By paying attention to portion size, calorie intake and following these guidelines, you can enjoy a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet for a lifetime of good health.
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