Saturday, September 25, 2010

FAQ: Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

I have the pleasure of being part of the Wellness Committee at work.  It has been a slow start but I'm excited for what the group stands for and to be able to do something I related to health and wellness during my daytime job.  As a committee member, I write a Q&A column in the monthly newsletter.  I answer some common questions that people have about health and nutrition.  I thought I would share this information on the blog and start an FAQ section that will keep the archive of the questions.  Have any questions that you'd like me to take a stab at?  Ask them here or email me at lisachinhhc(at)gmail(dot)com.

Q: Is there such a thing as “good” carbs?

A: Great question! Carbohydrates or carbs tend to get a bad rep by dieters (perhaps due to the popularity of the Atkins diet) but not all of them are bad. Sources of carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is essential to our body’s functioning. Did you know that glucose is the main source of energy for our body – including our brain? That means that choosing the right carbohydrate is very important!

There are 2 groups of carbohydrates – complex and simple.
“Good” carbohydrates are the complex carbohydrates because they take a longer time to breakdown in our bodies and do not rapidly increase our blood sugar. Some examples are whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and whole grain cereal and breads.
“Bad” carbohydrates can simple carbohydrates, which are often devoid of protein or fiber and break down very quickly in our digestive systems. Examples are fruit juices, candy, non-diet soda, table sugar, and white flour and rice. They cause a very rapid spike and drop in our blood sugar. This spike and drop causes stress on our bodies and has been linked to diabetes.

It’s important for our energy level and our overall health to choose complex carbohydrates. Some simple changes you can make are to switch to whole wheat alternatives of your pastas, breads and baked goods and to incorporate more whole grains into your diet. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, wild rice, oats, and buckwheat. Beans and nuts are an easy addition too – add them to your salad or have them as snacks (e.g., hummus, trail mix).

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