Carbs: Friend or Foe?

It still amazes me; whenever someone finds out I’m trying to lose weight, the first thing they say is, “OH! That’s easy, just cut out carbohydrates.” It makes me wonder how many people run around giving advice without knowing what it is they’re talking about. Oh sure, cutting carbs out of my diet would probably yield some results, but not the ones I’m looking for. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; losing weight isn’t about being skinny (I realize I may only speak for myself here). It’s really more about being healthy. Regardless of the scary reputation given to them by various crazed diets, carbs have a legitimate place in a balanced diet.

The USDA’s food pyramid and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are great places to start (besides right here, of course) if you want to know more about carbohydrates.

Carbs are used to fuel your body and are, in fact, the best source for this fuel. Just like anything good in life, they must be limited. The CDC recommends 45-65% of your daily calories should be comprised of carbohydrates. They go on to include that this should come mostly from sources of complex carbs and that it’s wise to limit simple carbs. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say this: complex=good carbs, simple=bad carbs.

Complex carbs are found in dietary fiber and starch. Look for products labeled ‘whole grain’ or ‘whole wheat’. The keyword here is whole. Whole fruits and vegetables even contain more fiber (thus, more good carbs) than their juice counterparts. Throughout the day, make at least half of your carbohydrate choices be good carbs. Foods rich in good carbs include:

  • whole grain bread
  • whole grain tortillas
  • oatmeal
  • couscous
  • popcorn (without butter and salt)
  • seeds and nuts
  • most veggies
  • brown rice
  • potatoes
  • most fruit
  • bulgur
  • whole wheat flour
  • whole wheat pasta
  • and there are many more out there…!

Bad carbs (otherwise known as simple) are found in these types of food:

  • white bread products
  • any grain product that’s not ‘whole’
  • pasta (most pasta on the market is not whole grain)
  • sugars found in fruits and fruit juices (although not all carbs in these are bad, so don’t cut them out completely, you need other good stuff in them!)
  • sugars naturally present in milk products (another source not to count out completely!)
  • added sugars

Go to My Pyramid Planner and find out how much of each food group you should be eating based on your age, height, weight, activity level and gender. They even have options to customize your pyramid based on whether you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight. Fad diets might work temporarily, but consider what your depriving yourself of. Not only does your body need variety and balance, but it tastes a heck of a lot better too! Instead of a crazed fad diet, try changing your lifestyle. Carbs aren’t all that bad, they’re just misused and misunderstood!

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Carbs: Friend or Foe? — 22 Comments

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