As part of wanting to include more Nutrition Topics in my blog, I am going to try to write posts about articles and topics on a weekly basis. Every day I receive emails from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with articles, papers and news, so it’s a great way to keep myself updated. In my inbox today was an article written by the Chicago Tribute Times about Carbohydrates titled Good Carb, Bad Carb. This caught my attention because it has been a controversial nutrition issue for a while.
The Atkins diet became extremely popular in the early 2000’s. This is when America’s love/hate relationship with carbs began. I am proud to say that I never had a hate relationship with carbs, only love!
Carbohydrates are a fundamental macronutrient that our body needs. Carbohydrates provide wonderful benefits (described below) especially whole grains. Our issue with carbohydrates is that many people have too much and not the right kind. What we want to eat are whole grains, not refined grains.
- Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. They keep us going during the day and spare protein and fat for their jobs.
- Carbohydrates made with whole grains are a good source of Fiber
- Provides many essential vitamins and minerals
What makes a Whole Grain?
- A whole grain contains the germ, endosperm and bran. A refined grain (white flour) contains only the endosperm. The germ is what contains all the wonderful nutrients our body needs: iron, protein, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and B vitamins.
- Refined grains have been processed to remove the germ and bran so only the endosperm is left intact. Then it is enriched with some of the vitamins and minerals that are missing. This began in the late 1940’s to increase the amount of nutrients American’s consumed. Even though the enrichment process does restore some vitamins and minerals, fiber is not being put back.
There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel, which therefor slows down digestion. This helps to control weight and control blood sugar levels because it delays gastric emptying. Soluble fiber also competes with cholesterol which will help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Some sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereal, , flaxseeds, certain types of beans such as lentils and starchy vegetables.
- Insoluble does not attract water so it passes through you mainly intact. This will have a laxative effect and helps with constipation. Some sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat products, wheat bran, seeds, buts, fruit skins, dark leafy greens.
You must beware though, there are many marketing gimmicks that trick consumers into thinking they are eating 100% whole grains when they are not.
Read the label! You want the first ingredient to be 100% whole wheat flour or whole grains. If not, you are probably consuming some whole grains, but it is not truly a 100% whole wheat product. Many products will also advertise ‘Made with whole grains’, which is different than being a complete whole grain product. Check out the examples below.
What is the first ingredient? Not whole wheat.
This product may look like it is whole grains, but if you read closely the first ingredient is whole grain white wheat flour. Almost a home run.
See here how it says ‘Made with Whole Grain’..
Many restaurants will offer dishes such as a ‘Wheat Pizza’. Majority of the time, these dishes are not 100% whole wheat.
Don’t think that if you eat a non-whole grain product that your health is in jeopardy. It is just like everything else, you want to limit the amount of non-whole grain products consumed. A good rule to follow is that you want half your grains to be whole grains. Refer to My Plate for the recommend carbohydrate amount for your age and gender.
If interested, check out the Whole Grain Council for more information.