Carbohydrates recently developed a bad reputation, especially when the Glycemic Index concept and high protein diets became popular. People were afraid of eating carbs and concerned that it would just turn into fat. I, therefore, am writing to provide you with the facts on the importance of including some carbohydrate foods in your daily diet to keep you optimally fueled and lean for life. Also, I want to clarify what the Glycemic Index really means.
The bottom line when choosing the most sustaining and satisfying carbohydrate foods is how many grams of dietary fiber there are per serving. Eating foods that are absorbed more slowly will assist in keeping sugar levels stabilized and provide sustained energy. Fiber is one of your best friends for weight loss. When you eat food that has 3 grams or more of dietary fiber per serving, you will get more satisfaction per bite and actually feel full longer. Increased satisfaction is key to eating less and being lean! Fiber also slows the absorption of sugar. A food with 5 grams of dietary fiber or more is considered a high fiber carbohydrate.
Why the recent concern with eating carbs? The way the glycemic index is calculated is part of the reason why there is some confusion on this subject. This index represents how quickly 50 grams of carbohydrates from a specific food raises our blood glucose (blood sugar) level, which is then used as an index to determine which foods are higher on the scale than others. For instance, a food with a higher glycemic index raises our blood sugar level more quickly than a food with a lower glycemic index. However, this is not necessarily an accurate reading of whether a particular carb is good or bad.
The measurement itself does not necessarily reflect real-life eating habits and the simple fact is that most people do not eat 50 grams of any one carbohydrate at one time! For example, you would have to eat 7 medium carrots at one meal to get 50 grams of carbs, definitely not an actual amount of food that a person would eat. This leads to people thinking that carrots are bad from this glycemic index reference. Not true, carrots are a very healthful source of fiber and beta-carotene (an antioxidant). Focus on dietary fiber when looking at a carbohydrate food, which is a much more accurate way to assess how quickly your glucose level will be raised. A high fiber food helps keep your sugar levels stabilized and increases your satisfaction. Bottom line, you can have your carbs and eat them too!
Carbohydrates are an important part of your diet, especially carbs that are high in dietary fiber. Eating carbs that are higher in dietary fiber will help you feel satisfied and keep you feeling full. So how do you choose which high fiber carbs to eat? A good rule of thumb is to stay clear of the “white” carbs as much as possible. Aim for whole grains with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. Eat fruit with edible skin or edible seeds, which are also higher in fiber. For example, apples, peaches, pears, or berries are higher in fiber than melons or bananas. Eat dark green leafy vegetables, the darker in color the higher in fiber, for the most part. Romaine lettuce or spinach is higher in fiber than Iceberg, for instance. As an alternative to bread, pasta, potatoes or rice, go for a baked organic yam with skin, green peas, butternut squash, or an artichoke for your high fiber carbohydrate fuel instead.
Even if you are dining out and there is an abundance of white carbs on the menu, there’s no need to fret. RELAX and have a small serving of that white carb and then balance it out with lots of veggies and a serving of protein. You will be fine, satisfied and fueled! If your dining choice is limited to white pasta, then order pasta primavera with less pasta, extra veggies, marinara sauce and some grilled salmon or chicken. The lack of fiber in the white carb will be balanced out by the extra fiber from the veggies. If you are going Mexican, order corn tortillas instead of white flour tortillas.
A good guideline for watching your carb intake is to choose one carbohydrate food per meal. So if you are eating the corn tortillas, order grilled fish tacos with lots of veggies and salsa and hold off on the rice for another meal. Choose the carb that you have a greater desire for, the pasta OR the bread, the rice OR the tortilla, the fruit OR the bread. Eating high fiber carbs will help you feel satisfied and keep your muscles fueled to give you the energy to MOVE at least an hour a day, working up that healthy glow to be LEAN and HOT!
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