Crazy Confusing Carbohydrates

The world of nutrition has been rocked by some recent studies.  In the past, the belief was that dietary fats were primarily responsible for heart disease and obesity.  The food industry responded by cutting fat in all their processed products.  Fat was replaced by sugars.

North Americans kept getting bigger and the problem with heart disease was getting worse.  People became fat phobic and shunned anything they perceived to be high in fat including healthy fats found in nuts and seeds, olive oils and even avocados.

It should come as no surprise that current research indicates that dietary sugar is problematic.  It seems that highly refined carbohydrates are worse for your heart than saturated fats.

Consequently, the term carbohydrate is horribly confusing for most people.  I ask all of my patients to define it for me.  90% will say bread, pastas, rice and cereal.  They are not wrong. However, those foods are considered simple carbohydrates because they are made from refined white flour.  Complex carbohydrates are not highly processed and have a low glycemic index value.  These foods include: legumes, brown rice, whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta.

To make matters even more confusing there are carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables and even milk.  However, the fiber in the fruit and vegetables and the protein in the milk are good for you.  These combinations are beneficial.

Consider foods such as pastries, cookies, Danish, muffins, crackers, chocolate bars, candy, cake, pies and you’ve got a list of foods made with added sugar and some of them with refined white based flour.  These foods are addictive and can lead to weight gain and health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

If you reduce your intake of sugar containing foods and sugar containing beverages like regular soda (and even diet soda) and juice then you can significantly improve your diet.

Replace white pasta with whole wheat and white rice with brown rice.  Use only whole grain breads and rolls when making sandwiches or toast.  Experiment with legumes in recipes.  Try making a lentil vegetable soup or a chickpea salad.  Instead of making mashed potatoes with white potatoes, use sweet potatoes as a substitute.  Consider baking with whole wheat flour and cutting down on the amount of sugar in the recipe.  Try using unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar.  Instead of juice, try homemade smoothies made from frozen fruit of your choice and milk or yogurt.

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