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Are Carbohydrates Bad?

Americans have a love hate relationship with carbohydrates. We believe that carbs make us fat and sluggish, but despite our beliefs the research reveals we consume carbohydrates in almost record amounts. What’s the truth about carbohydrates? Here is what is known.

Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates come in two distinct forms. Complex carbohydrates include those in whole grain breads, brown rice and many vegetables and these carbohydrates are also the major source of dietary fibers. These foods typically are less processed than their carbohydrate cousins.

Sugars are those carbohydrates found in fruits, milk and sweeteners added by manufacturers. Clearly, the added sugars by manufacturers and in sweet foods are creating the bad reputation that carbohydrates have earned over the years.

In the early 1900’s, the average American was consuming about 500 grams (2000 calories) from carbohydrates. Yet, obesity was not a clinical problem. Why? The food was unprocessed and as a nation we were active throughout the day.

Americans today eat more carbohydrates but the choices are more likely to be processed white pasta, rice and corn products such as chips. Additionally, the consumption of added sugars has increased by 22% from the 1980’s to the year 2000 according to the Economic Review Service of the USDA.

So more processed carbohydrates and added sugars are dominating the food landscape. This increase in processed carbohydrates means less whole grains consumed. This is where the problem lies. The absence of whole grains can cause real problems.

Most Americans consume less than one serving of a whole grain( 1 ounce) per day. The current dietary guidelines recommend at least 85 grams or 3 ounces per day.

Benefits of Carbohydrates

The benefits of consuming whole grains are substantial. Whole grains are filling, take longer to digest and as such can contribute to a well balanced weight loss plan. When whole grains, like wheat are processed, the outer bran layer is lost. Fiber content of the food is reduced and there is the loss of B vitamins. These B vitamins are added back to the refined grains. However, there are additional losses of nutrients that are not replaced. This outer layer contains magnesium and other phytonutrients that are valuable nutritional heroes.

Research from the Health Professionals Follow up study demonstrates that whole grain consumption can reduce the risk of high blood pressure. This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last September, analyzed the dietary impact of whole grains on blood pressure. This study included over 31,000 men. Those with the highest intake of whole grain and specifically bran had a 15% lower risk of blood pressure.

Make a plan to increase whole grains by choosing 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice and increase your fiber intake and improve your health!