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What Are the Good Carbs?
Most of us know what the good carbs are: plant foods that deliver fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals along with grams of carbohydrate, such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. You can’t judge a carb as “good” without considering its fibre content (unless it’s a naturally low-fibre food like skim or low-fat milk).
Why Fibre in Carbohydrates Counts
- Fibre is the part in plant foods that humans can’t digest. Even though fibre isn’t absorbed, it does all sorts of great stuff for our bodies.
- Fibre slows down the absorption of other nutrients eaten at the same meal, including carbohydrates.
- This slowing down may help prevent peaks and valleys in your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Certain types of fibre found in oats, beans, and some fruits can also help lower blood cholesterol.
- As an added plus, fibre helps people feel full, adding to satiety.
The problem is that the typical Australian diet is anything but high in fibre.
“White” grain is the Australian mode of operation: we eat a muffin or ham cheese sandwich made with white flour in the morning, have our hamburger on a white bun, and then have white rice with our dinner.
In general, the more refined, or “whiter,” the grain-based food, the lower the fibre.
To get some fibre into almost every meal takes a little effort. Here are three tips:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Just eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will get you to about 10 or more grams of fibre, depending on your choices.
- Include some beans and bean products in your diet. A half-cup of cooked beans will add from 4 to 8 grams of fibre to your day.
- Switch to whole grains every single possible way (buns, rolls, bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, etc).
What Are the Bad Carbs?
- “Added” sugars
- Refined (processed) “white” grains
There’s no way to sugar-coat the truth: Australians are eating more sugar than ever before. In fact, the average adult takes in about 20 teaspoons of added sugar every day, that’s about 320 calories, which can quickly up to extra pounds. Many adults simply don’t realize how much added sugar is in their diets.
Sugars and refined grains and starches supply quick energy to the body in the form of glucose. That’s a good thing if your body needs quick energy, for example if you’re running a race or competing in sports.
The better carbs for most people are unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods that contain natural sugars, like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk.
Avoid Excess “Added Sugars”
“Added sugars, also known as caloric sweeteners, are sugars and syrups that are added to foods at the table or during processing or preparation (such as high fructose corn syrup in sweetened beverages and baked products),”
Added sugars supply calories but few or no nutrients.
“Australian’s are very aware of low-fat diets and because of that we’ve been eating more fat-free and low-fat products”.
“But what many people don’t know is that in many of these products, sugar is being substituted for fat, so we’ve really been trading fat for sugar.”
I recommend to my client’s that you get no more than 6% to 10% of our total calories from added sugar — that’s about nine teaspoons a day for most of us.
Use the Nutrition Label to Track Your Carbohydrates
The Nutrition Facts section on food labels can help you sort the good carbs from the bad carbs. Here’s what to look for on the Nutrition Facts label.
For tracking the total amount of carbohydrate in the food, per serving, look for the line that says “Total Carbohydrate.” You’ll find that often the grams of “fibre,” grams of “sugars” and grams of “other carbohydrate” will add up to the grams of “total carbohydrate” on the label.
Dietary Fibre. The line that says Dietary Fibre tells you the total amount of fibre in the food, per serving. Dietary fiber is the amount of carbohydrate that is indigestible and will likely pass through the intestinal tract without being absorbed.
Sugars. “Sugars” tells you the total amount of carbohydrate from sugar in the food, from all sources — natural sources like lactose and fructose as well as added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. It’s important to distinguish between natural sugars and added sugars. For example, the average 1% low-fat milk label will list 15 grams of “sugar” per cup. Those grams come from the lactose (milk sugars) not from added sweeteners.
To get an idea of how many grams of sugar on the label come from added sugars – such as high fructose corn syrup or white or brown sugar — check the list of ingredients on the label. See if any of those sweeteners are in the top three or four ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity, so the bulk of most food is made up of the first few ingredients.
“Hannah knows that carbs are not the enemy ”
Other Carbohydrate. The category “other carbohydrate” represents the digestible carbohydrate that is not considered a sugar (natural or otherwise).
Sugar Alcohols. Some product labels also break out “sugar alcohols” under “Total Carbohydrate.” In some people, sugar alcohol carbohydrates can cause intestinal problems such as gas, cramping, or diarrhoea. If you look on the ingredient label, the sugar alcohols are listed as lactitol, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and others. Many “sugar free” or “reduced calorie” foods contain some sugar alcohols even when another alternative sweetener like Splenda is in the product.
Take Home Message
Make a good healthy choice when it comes to choosing carbs remember if it is grown fresh it’s best and don’t make food complicated keep it simple and you will reap the rewards.
You’re in Good Health