Fad diets have given carbohydrates a bad name. Actually, carbohydrates are an important component of good health. Here are some basics about carbohydrates. You may be surprised at how health-enhancing carbs and grain-based foods like bread really are.
Carbohydrates are your body’s first choice of energy to fuel physical activity, your brain, and your nervous system. They deliver essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and a host of beneficial phytonutrients. For instance, whole grains contain heart-healthy antioxidants and other phytochemicals that are not found in fruits and vegetables.
What are carbs?
There are three different kinds of carbohydrates - starch, sugar, and fiber. During digestion, the body breaks down starch into sugar. After digestion, carbohydrates appear in the circulatory system as a sugar on its way to the cells where it is used for energy. Bread is rich in complex carbohydrates and is a great source of energy.
Carbs from grains fill you up—not out
Gram for gram, carbohydrates contain less than half the calories found in fat. This is because grains contain fiber - something meats and dairy products don't have. Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be digested, which is why fiber is known for promoting satiety or a full feeling. Fiber appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and diverticular disease.
There is excellent evidence from lifestyle intervention studies that overweight individuals who become active, reduce their fat intake, and include complex carbohydrates in their diet, can significantly reduce their weight over several years.
Best way to lose weight: Decrease calorie intake, increase calorie output
Claims that high-protein diets are the answer to fitness and weight loss are just that--claims. Leading dietitians agree that the best way to lose weight is to decrease the amount of calories you eat while increasing the amount of calories you spend through exercise.
Although we need protein to build muscle, too much of a good thing may cause health problems--and national surveys show virtually all Americans get plenty of protein. On the flip side, consumption data shows Americans aren't eating even the minimum recommended daily servings of bread and other grains, foods perfect for fueling active bodies.
Significant research exists that suggests that high-protein, low-carb diets are not effective for long-term weight loss. Research also shows that they may not even be safe. Many of the high-protein foods included in this type of diet, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, are high in saturated fat and low in vitamins and minerals, which may increase the risk for heart disease and colon cancer. Very high protein diets may also increase the risk for osteoporosis in women because the body takes calcium from the bones to neutralize acids that build up in the blood from digesting large amounts of protein. Most medical experts and nutritionists recommend that protein intake be kept at moderate amounts and that carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, make up a large part of the diet.
The food and nutrition information found in our Nutrition Center is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or substitute for consulting a licensed health professional.