Fad diets have given carbohydrates a bad name. Actually, carbohydrates are an important component of good health. Here are some basics about carbohydrates. You may be surprised at how health-enhancing carbs and grain-based foods like bread really are.
What Are Carbohydrates?
There are three different kinds of carbohydrates – starch, sugar and fiber found in fruits, grains and vegetables. During digestion, the body breaks down starch into smaller units of sugar. The liver converts these sugars into glucose, which is carried into the bloodstream – accompanied by insulin – and converted into energy. Breads are rich in complex carbohydrates, which is absorbed more slowly, providing an excellent source of sustained energy.
Carbs from Grains Fill You Up – Not Out
Gram for gram, carbohydrates contain less than half the calories found in fat providing only 7 percent of total calories in the diet.1 This is because grains contain fiber – something meats and dairy products don’t have. Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be digested, which is why fiber is known for promoting satiety or a full feeling. Grain foods provide a total of 23 percent of fiber or 4 grams of fiber to the diets of Americans (ages 2 years and older).1 There is excellent evidence from lifestyle intervention studies that overweight individuals who become active, reduce their fat intake, and include complex carbohydrates in their diet can significantly reduce their weight over several years.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data (NHANES). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009–2012.
*NOTE: This is based on breads, rolls, and tortillas as designated by NHANES.
Best Way to Lose Weight: Decrease Calorie Intake, Increase Calorie Output
Claims that high-protein diets are the answer to fitness and weight loss are just that – claims. Leading dietitians agree that the best way to lose weight is to decrease the amount of calories you eat while increasing the amount of calories you spend through exercise.
Although we need to build muscle, too much of a good thing may cause health problems — and national surveys show virtually all Americans get plenty of protein. On the flip side, consumption data shows Americans aren’t eating even the minimum recommended daily servings of bread and other grains, foods perfect for fueling active bodies.
Significant research exists that suggests that high-protein, low-carb diets are not effective for long-term weight loss. Research also shows that they may not even be safe. Many of the high-protein foods included in this type of diet, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, are high in saturated fat and low in vitamins and minerals. Most medical experts and nutritionists recommend that protein intake be kept at moderate amounts and that carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, should make up a large part of the diet.