Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Please eat your carbs!

Yeah. You heard me. Eat your damn carbs. The low carb diet craze is the most ridiculous thing to ever hit the diet world. Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy, fiber, and zillions of vitamins and nutrients. The trick is knowing what kind and how much.

Food companies have made it as difficult as possible to sort out the good food from the bad food. They do this by disguising unhealthy options as nutritious, "good for you" options. I find that this happens most in breads, rice and pastas. You should always, always, ALWAYS avoid white breads, pastas and rice. These are simple carbohydrates, they break down very fast and cause the blood sugar to spike and then crash. This is exactly the same reaction that sugar has, so when eating white bread and pasta, you are doing as much damage as if you were eating a handful of sugar. The body needs complex carbohydrates. These are the whole grains that have been made into bread and pasta in their natural state. During the process of making these white breads, the outer shell of the grain is taken away. This is where all the nutrients and vitamins are. Whole wheat and whole grain breads and brown rice have these grains in their natural state, and they do not break down as quickly. They take a long time to digest, which means blood sugar will not spike, plus you will get all the nutritional benefits of the grain.

So that seems simple enough right? Just buy everything that says "Whole Wheat." Wrong. For reasons I do not understand, most foods labeled as "Whole Wheat" are a trick. It's actually white bread made to look brown, usually by adding molasses for coloring. People buy the brown bread that says it's whole wheat bread and think they are eating a good bread. In order to make sure you are actually buying a product that is really whole wheat, you need to read the ingredients. If it says "enriched flour," put it down and back away. It should say "unbleached whole wheat flour." It also will probably have visible seeds and grains right in the bread. Pasta needs to say the same thing. If something is enriched, all that means is they tried to add back the nutrients that were stripped out in the beginning, and this doesn't work because our bodies will not absorb them this way.

Now for portion sizes.. breads and pastas should account for 9-11 servings a day. However, this is where the trouble comes in. A lot of people do not know what a portion really is. Its ONE slice of bread. It's 1/7 of a box of pasta. Its 1/4 cup of uncooked rice. A serving is not big at all, and all those sandwiches and pasta dinners can add up very fast. I recommend taking the time to measure out the servings. It will be worth it in the end. These foods tend to be calorie-dense, so overdoing it can cause weight gain, but these foods are so vital to our health that you cannot cut them out completely. I love taking a serving or two of pasta and adding a lot of veggies and a good spaghetti sauce. Add a couple of pieces of whole wheat garlic bread and I'm in heaven. (And also full and satisfied afterward.) Put this together with some toast and oatmeal in the morning, and a sandwich in the afternoon, and there are the recommended servings for the day.

The main thing to get from this post is to NOT AVOID complex carbohydrates. Work into it slowly if you need too. Whole wheat bread is an easy enough change, but whole wheat pasta can be a problem for some people. Experiment with different brands. Some are heavier than others, and remember to cook it for longer than you would the white pastas. Look at labels, and have fun finding ones you and your family can enjoy!


Anonymous said...

What type of spaghetti sauce would you recommend? So many brands have a ton of sodium in them?

Rachel said...

I recommend making your own. I have a recipe that I can post this weekend for everyone to try, it calls for canned tomatoes but I always use the low sodium option. If I'm going for jar sauce I will have Whole Foods 365 Organic, or Full Circle brands. These tend to be lower in sodium, plus they are organic. I am extremely picky about jar sauce and I really like these brands. Look for my homemade recipe this weekend, it looks difficult but is actually extremely simple. It's my grandmother's recipe and all my friends loved it growing up... it was the only kind I would eat for years. I hope this helped!

Anonymous said...

I LOVED reading this post! I've know this info. for awhile but there are so many who don't. I didn't for a long time. I'm excited for when you have some more time to Blog more. Of course if I worked 70 hr weeks I wouldn't have the time either. :o)(lol) I grew up fat and extremely unhealthy with diabetic parents. Little Debbie was a good friend of mine(lol) ;o) Then I got gestational diabetes with my second child and suddenly I was forced to learn that there were good foods for our bodies and bad ones as well. I've learned so much and am still learning. I'm so happy that my girls have a better chance at being healthy than I did. I look forward to your future posts! :o)