Every school seems to have a class that has a few bad kids, and the entire class gets the negative reputation. The class then carries around a stigma that nobody can seem to see through. They fail to see the good kids because of a few that hog all the attention, albeit negative attention.
In the world of nutrition, this class is the carbohydrates. It’s true that there are some high-carbohydrate foods that aren’t very good for you. (Think sugary treats, candy, potato chips, soda, donuts, crackers, etc.) They lack nutrition and when eaten in excess can be detrimental to your health. Because of this, they have been excluded from many diets, blamed for the obesity epidemic in America, said to cause diabetes, and shunned by well-intentioned health seekers. But the truth is, carbohydrates are a very diverse class. While you have your problematic carbs, too often carbohydrates that are high in fiber and other vital nutrients are also cut from diets, when they’ve really never done anything but effectively fuel our bodies.
Here are some of the great things carbohydrates do for us:
- Help maintain blood glucose, which is responsible for fueling the brain, central nervous system, and red blood cells
- Spare protein (meaning that if we don’t get enough carbohydrates, the body will break down needed proteins for fuel)
- Predominant fuel source during high-intensity exercise
- Help burn fats–There is a saying that “fats burn in a carbohydrate flame.” Basically, this is a simple way to explain part of the metabolic process that uses fats for energy, and one that we are all very interested in. If we don’t have enough carbohydrates, fat burning slows down.
So let’s eat some carbohydrates! But which ones? And how much?
Be sure to choose mainly complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple carbs. Complex carbs, including vegetables, grains, pasta, and rice are all good choices. Complex carbohydrates are divided into two categories: Starches and Fiber. Some good starches to include in your diet are grains, wheat (if you aren’t gluten-intolerant), rice, corn, oats, potatoes, pasta, and peas. Fiber-rich foods include nuts, apples, blueberries, oatmeal, beans, bran, brown rice, and fruit skins. Some simple carbs, specifically fruit, should also be included in your diet because of the important nutrients they contain.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine recommends that adults consume 45-65% of their total calories each day from carbohydrates, primarily as complex carbohydrates and whole grains. This is a pretty wide range, and is such because of the range of activity levels in the population. For example, a person who exercises over an hour a day would need to consume a lot more carbohydrates than a person who sits at a desk all day. Ultimately, find what works for you. Remember that, contrary to all the hype, your body needs carbohydrates to function effectively, and the best carbohydrates are the ones that provide other necessary nutrients.
So now for the RECIPE CHALLENGE!!!
I have really been wanting to improve the quality of my carbohydrate intake, specifically in the area of whole grains. I do a pretty good job with fruits and vegetables, but I am getting slightly bored with my oatmeal and am looking for other ways to incorporate some amazing grains into my diet.
So here’s the challenge: Send me your favorite recipe that includes whole grains. You can email it to me at email@example.com. In the next couple weeks, I will try out three recipes that seem most appealing to me. (For some hints on what might appeal to me, check out this post, How to Overcome Food Confusion.) From those, I will choose a recipe challenge winner and feature the winning recipe on the blog. Your recipe (and you!) could be practically famous, right?! I am super excited to hear from you, get some great grain recipes, and share back with all of you. So send them on in!!
And remember, keep eating those good carbs! Your body will love you for it.
Love your body, and your body will love you. ♥