Living Well Nutrition: Exploring Carbs

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The Truth About Carbs

by Jen Kavanagh

Confused about carbohydrates and whether you should eat a low-carb or high-carb diet? Confused about what the difference is between good versus bad carbs? 

Let’s unpack the truth about carbohydrates, nutrition, and weight loss. Carbohydrates are not foes, their purpose is to give your body instant energy. However, many people, confused about carbohydrates’ role in nutrition, are eliminating them from their diet. If they do, they will likely find themselves sluggish and hungry.  

Not all carbs are created equal. The type of carbs you consume makes a difference in how you feel, your gut health, energy levels, and weight and body shape. In general, aim to fill your body with the most nutrient-dense, whole food varietals of carbohydrates available for optimal health and well-being. 

I recommend living life according to the 80/20 rule, or the 90/10 if you are truly goal-oriented and seeking results. With this philosophy, you eat nutritiously 80% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in less healthy food for the remaining 20% of your meals. Nothing is off limits, even bread and pizza. However, they belong in the 20% category and should be consumed only on occasion.

Carbs come in many forms: sugar, flour, baked goods, processed cereals, granola bars, cookies, brownies and other treats. But did you know that all fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates? Here’s the skinny on “good” and “bad” carbs. 

Eliminate or make part of your 20%-of-the-time-diet, processed carbs like baked goods, snack foods coming out of a box or a bag, chips, crackers and white breads. Many breads are processed, so it’s better to limit the intake, but if you make it part of your 20% consumption, you don’t have to live life without it. 

Healthier bread options include slices of sprouted grain, whole grain, or seed bread such as Ezekiel or any other brand that is not comprised solely of white or enriched wheat flour. 

But in general, strive to fill up on carbs that are considered whole foods and have a high fiber content. You can enjoy the following foods to maintain health, energy and consistent weight: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and any vegetable you like. 

Fruit contains more sugar than vegetables but provides essential micronutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that you can’t get elsewhere, so it is very important. Eat one or two servings of fruit daily. You can also eat whole grains loaded with fiber such as farro, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, and brown rice. 

After years of limiting carbs and trying to lose weight with very little results, feeling low energy, “hangry” and regularly craving bread, I learned the body absolutely needs carbs for optimal nutrition and weight loss. So eat your carbs with a clear mind and conscience. 

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