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
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
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
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!