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University Dietitian Offers ‘The Truth about Carbs’
(AUGUSTA, GA. Dec. 10, 2007) To eat bread, or not to eat bread: that is the question so many troubled dieters face. Limiting or cutting carbs, which, of course, includes much more than just bread, is a common trend in today’s dieting world. Kim Beavers, University Registered Dietitian and star of News 12’s Eating Well with Kim, helps us discover that carbs might not be as simple as just good or bad.
To start simply, the primary function of carbohydrates is to provide us with the fuel we need to get through the day. The liver breaks down the carbohydrate-rich foods we eat into glucose, the primary fuel for most cells in the body. So, why are some carbs better than others?
“The short answer is that some carbohydrates have nutrients and others merely provide us with calories,” Mrs. Beavers said. When questioning the benefits of the carbs you consume, Mrs. Beavers said it’s important to ask yourself, “What nutrients does this provide?” For example, Mrs. Beavers said, take a regular 12 oz. coke can and compare it to a medium sized baked potato. The coke contains 140 calories and no nutrients. The baked potato, on the other hand, has 150 calories, 3 grams of fiber, vitamin C, B-vitamins and phytonutrients. You be the judge. Another example Mrs. Beavers gave was to compare refined (white) pasta and whole wheat pasta. The refined pasta is enriched with some nutrients, but opting for the whole wheat pasta is healthier because it contains fiber and all the nutrients of the whole wheat (B-vitamins, vitamin E, copper, magneseium and various phytonutrients).
These examples suggest that the blanket statement that carbs are bad for us is just plain untrue. And contrary to popular belief, carbs don’t actually cause weight gain. Rather, too many calories and not enough activity cause us to pack on those extra pounds. Of the three main macronutrients in food—carbohydrates, protein and fat—carbs are the main source of energy for the body and you need to eat them everyday, according to Mrs. Beavers.
Carbs pop up in unexpected places besides your Italian pasta dish and the bread on your sub. “Even non-starchy vegetables like green beans contain a small amount of carbohydrate,” Mrs. Beavers said. “The only food groups that don’t have carbohydrate are the meat and fat groups, and some foods in the protein group contain carbohydrates, such as peanut butter and beans.” There are plenty of healthy foods out there with carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and low-fat milk and yogurt. Some foods Mrs. Beavers suggests you may want to steer clear of are regular soda (sugar is a carbohydrate, too) candy (like chocolate) and French fries.
There have been and will continue to be studies upon studies on what is the perfect balance between carbs, protein and fat in your diet. So before you run out for the latest fad book on dieting, remember a few simple points. There isn’t a “one fits all” diet, according to Mrs. Beavers. “The ability to stick to a weight loss plan (hopefully a healthy one) is also a key factor in weight loss success.” When it comes to a healthy diet, moderation is key. We all occasionally have cravings for foods that we know are not necessarily good for us, so go ahead and eat the piece of chocolate. Just don’t eat ten! When consuming carbs, be conscious of serving sizes and watch your calories versus how much you exercise. Customize your diet to work for you and choose your carbohydrates wisely!
Recommended serving sizes for foods high in carbohydrates (Source: A.D.A.M., Inc.):
1 cup of raw vegetables, or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
Fruits: 1 medium size fruit (such as 1 medium apple or 1 medium orange), 1/2 cup of a canned or chopped fruit, or 3/4 cup of fruit juice
Breads and cereals: 1 slice of bread; 1 ounce or 2/3 cup of ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, lentils, or dried peas
Dairy: 1 cup of skim or lowfat milk
Whole wheat Couscous with Pistachios
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Coat the bottom of a medium non-stick skillet with cooking spray, add oil and, place over medium heat. Add onion and celery to the skillet and cook until soft (about 2 minutes). Meanwhile bring both to a boil. Add couscous, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Add onion mixture, pistachios, and parsley to couscous. Fluff couscous with a fork and serve.
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 (7.6 ounce) box whole wheat couscous
1 ½ cup lower sodium chicken broth
½ cup shelled pistachios chopped
¼ cup parsley, minced
Yield: 10 servings (serving size: ½ cup) Nutrient Breakdown: Calories 130, Fat 4g (0g saturated fat), Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 95mg, Carbohydrate 22g, Fiber 4g, Protein 5g