From the Desk of Joleen Wilson, Pathway Dietician: Carbs Aren’t Created Equal
Written by: Joleen Wilson, Registered Dietician, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, for Pathway for Eating Disorders Treatment at Brookhaven Hospital
A hot topic lately is carbohydrates or “carbs”. Are they bad for me? Is there such a thing as “good carbs”?
Not all carbohydrates are created equal. There are complex carbohydrates (whole grain, vegetables) and simple carbohydrates (refined sugars, cakes, flavored sodas, etc). Complex carbohydrates or whole grains fuel your body while keeping blood sugar levels and mood stable. They take longer to break down in our bodies, mostly due to their fiber content, and keep us feeling fuller longer. The goal is to eat 5 or more servings of whole grains per day such as whole wheat pasta, wheat bread, oatmeal, bran cereal, and brown rice. Eating refined grains or sugary foods raise your glucose levels quickly, but also drops it quickly, leaving us more likely to reach for more.
The World Health Organization has new advice. Limit sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories consumed each day. Capping your sugar intake at just 5 percent of your daily calories “would provide additional health benefits,” the guideline says. The types of sugars we want to cut back on include all of the sweeteners added to foods, such as sucrose (aka table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. The sugars that we don’t need to limit include intrinsic sugars, which are naturally present in foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables as well as low fat milk.
Don’t be tempted to hang your head in self-loathing if you eat a piece of chocolate cake. We all need these eating experiences to avoid the pitfalls of deprivation (so-called “binge eating”, uncontrollable cravings, or “falling off the wagon” completely). No one can follow a perfect diet. Allow yourself these sweet foods now and then to help calm sugary carbohydrate cravings.
Some ways to incorporate complex carbohydrates into your diet is simple. For breakfast, experiment with different oatmeal recipes. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds or ground flaxseed to hot cereal to increase the fiber content. Bake your pancakes with whole grain flour. Also, try sprinkling ¼ cup of high fiber cereal (Fiber One, Raisin Bran, Grape Nuts) in 6-8 ounces of yogurt. For lunch, try a deli sandwich on whole grain bread that has at least 3 grams of fiber per slice. At dinner, try to make spaghetti with whole wheat spaghetti noodles or have brown rice as a side. A good snack may be a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter or broccoli or carrots dipped in low fat ranch dressing.