Carbohydrates and Fiber
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Carbohydrates -- food composed of some combination of starches, sugar and fiber -- provide the body with fuel for physical activity by breaking down into glucose, a type of sugar our cells use as a universal energy source.
• Bad carbs are foods that have been "stripped" of all bran, fiber and nutrients. They have been processed in order to make cooking fast and easy. Examples are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. They digest so quickly that they cause dramatic elevations in blood sugar, which over time can lead to weigh gain, hypoglycemia or even diabetes.
• Good carbs are digested more slowly. This keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising and falling too quickly, helping you get full quicker and feel fuller longer. Good sources of carbs include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, which also offer lots of additional health benefits, including prevention of heart disease and cancer.
Whole grains for long-lasting, healthy carbohydrate energy. In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart. Make whole grains an important part of every meal.
Make sure you're really getting whole grains. Focus on including grains that are in their whole form, such as whole grain brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley in your meals. When you want to eat healthy grains in the form of breads or cereals be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100 percent wheat, or bran, don't necessarily mean that a product is whole grain. Look for the new Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council. If there is no stamp look for the words "whole grain" or "100% whole wheat," and check the ingredients to make sure each grain listed is specified as whole grain. Some good sources are dark breads and toasted wheat cereals.
Avoid: refined grains such as breads, pastas and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.
Dietary fiber is found in plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps support a healthy diet by:
• Helping you feel fuller faster and longer, which can help prevent overeating.
• Keeping blood sugar levels even, by slowing digestion and absorption so that glucose (sugar) enters the blood stream slowly and steadily.
• Maintaining a healthy colon. The simple organic acids produced when fiber is broken down in the digestive process helps to nourish the lining of the colon.
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble:
• Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and can also help to lower blood fats and maintain blood sugar. Primary sources are beans, fruit and oat products.
• Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water, so it passes directly through the digestive system. It's found in whole grain products and vegetables.
A healthy diet should contain approximately 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, but most of us only get about half of that amount.