In this third installment of articles overviewing the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) we turn our attention to carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrates to have in our diet is probably the most controversial question of nutrition. You will see heated debates illustrating the benefits of both low carbohydrate diets and high carbohydrate diets. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has become a high carbohydrate diet.
Yes, we use carbohydrates for energy. They provide quick energy. Carbohydrates are converted into blood glucose (blood sugar) which feeds our brain and red blood cells. Ever notice how irritable you get when hungry? The brain does not operate very well without nourishment.
However, carbohydrates are not the only source of energy. Fat (as will be detailed in the next article) also provides energy. When most of us think of carbohydrates we think grains, breads, and sweets. They are not the only choice. Vegetables and fruits contain carbohydrates and roughly 30% of protein converts to carbohydrates.
Remember this simple equation. To your body: CARBOHYDRATE = SUGAR! That’s all you need to know. If we consume lots of carbohydrates (like 60% or more of our diet as recommended by the USDA) we consume lots of sugar. While sugar can be used for energy, excess sugar is converted into fat and stored and has many adverse affects on the body. The bottom line – it is sugar that makes us fat!
Not only does sugar (excess carbohydrates) contribute to weight gain, after a time insulin resistance occurs. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to move the excess sugar out of the blood stream. When the body can no longer keep up with sugar consumption it will become insulin resistant. This condition blocks the burning of fat, causes fat storage around the abdomen, and causes inflammation. Inflammation creates another long list of possible symptoms. Unless there are dietary changes, the next steps are pre-diabetes, diabetes, and according to some experts, Alzheimer’s.
Here are some of the various consumption guidelines for carbohydrates. As I stated previously in the article and you will see there is quite the variation! The USDA/Federal Government’s 2000 calorie per day diet includes 300 grams of carbohydrates, the American Diabetes Association recommends about 150 grams of carbohydrates per day for diabetics, while alternative/holistic practitioners will recommend about 50-60 grams per day. Many holistic practitioners have found their clients blood sugar levels come into balance at that level of carbohydrate intake.
So, to gain control over your carbohydrate consumption, I recommend you eat these foods for carbohydrates:
- Raw or steamed vegetables, preferably low carbohydrate veggies (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower) with two meals per day and snacks
- LIMIT starchy veggies (potatoes, yams, corn, squash, peas) to 3-4 times per week
- SALADS: Raw vegetable salads
Practice balance and moderation of these foods:
- GRAINS (Limited quantities ONLY – once per day maximum):
- If you are gluten sensitive or intolerant you must avoid all gluten containing grains and foods. It is best to consume only organic grains to avoid pesticides.
- Sprouted grain or sourdough bread.
- Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, and wild rice.
- Use brown rice or quinoa for pasta.
- Fresh grown fruits
- Limit to 25g of fructose per day. See my web site for your fructose in fruit guide – https://brwellness.com/?p=100.
- SWEETENERS: Not advised at all. But if you must, limit to limited amounts of the following
- Stevia (a natural sweetener)
- Raw Honey
- Pure Maple Syrup
Avoid these foods as best as possible:
- Refined/White flour
- Refined/White grains
- Cookies, cakes, pastries
- White sugar, brown sugar, all sweeteners not listed above
- Processed refined grain cold and hot cereals
- All artificial sweeteners
While it would be ideal not to eat the foods listed on the avoid list, I recognize reality. So, since most people will continue to eat these foods, it is even more important to consume the foods listed as healthy!!
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at email@example.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.