Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy production, making them an essential part of our diet. Good carbs are beneficial to our bodies, but bad carbs are not. Sorting through the maze of information can be confusing, but a few guidelines can help you out.
Carbs have received a bum rap at times. Many people trying to lose weight fast go for fad diets, some of which promote the elimination of carbs from your diet. In general, carbohydrates are an essential part of good nutrition and can actually contribute to a decrease in body fat. In addition to their energy producing capabilities, carbs provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients needed for good health. Most people realize that carbohydrates are in potatoes and bread products. Fruits and many vegetables also contain them. In general, for better health and nutrition, choose unprocessed foods high in fiber.
Avoid breads made with processed white or bleached flour. Processed flour has essential nutrients and fiber reduced or eliminated. White breads and pastas are the big culprits here, as well as any bread product made with white flour. Many products will label the product as “wheat” bread or “enriched wheat flour.” These products also have many of the good nutrients removed. Avoid foods made with white or bleached flour, including many breads, pasta, bagels and cereals. Look instead for products that are 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain for the best nutrition.
Most of us understand that sugar is not good for us. White sugar is the main culprit. As in white or bleached flour, white sugar has been processed, reducing nutrients. This doesn’t mean that brown sugar is good for us. Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added, so it too is not a good alternative. Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are ingredients found in many processed foods, as well, and should be avoided. In general, sugars found in cookies, candy, soft drinks, donuts, sweetened cereals and desserts provide empty calories, which are not utilized by the body and should be avoided. Read the labels on beverages as well. Many fruit drinks have added sugar. These empty calories eventually turn to excess body fat. Avoid all sugars as much as possible. Choose fruit juice or small amounts of raw sugar or pure maple syrup as alternatives.
Most packaged snacks that we purchase are loaded with empty calories. They are generally made with processed flour and white sugar. These snacks are handy for us as we rush through our daily lives. They give a quick burst of energy, but you may find yourself rundown and lethargic as the day continues. Eliminate as many as possible, including chips, candy, crackers and most prepackaged, processed snack items. Healthier snack choices are nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and raw vegetables.