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The Carbohydrate Debate Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written By The Carbohydrate Debate

The Carbohydrate Debate

by Renee Kennedy

To eat or not to eat carbohydrates? that is the question. There are good carbs and there are bad carbs. How can we tell the difference and how do we know what to eat?

The old way of classifying carbohydrates:

  • Complex Carbohydrates provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and energy. Some foods that contain complex carbohydrates are whole grain bread, legumes like peas and beans, pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables.

  • Simple Carbohydrates are broken down quickly to provide energy. Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in milk, fruits and vegetables. Simple carbs are also found in processed foods like syrup, soda, and refined sugar found in many processed baked goods.
In this way of classifying carbs, it is recommended that we limit our intake of simple carbs and get most of our carbohydrates from complex carbs.

The new way of classifying carbohydrates:

The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly blood sugar rises after ingesting a food with carbohydrates. Eating a diet full of foods that have been rated with a high GI may contribute to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Highly processed or highly refined carbohydrates have been found to have a high GI - foods like white bread, white rice, white pasta, french fries and refined breakfast cereals.

Whole foods will have a lower GI - legumes, whole fruit, and whole grains like wheat, oats, barley, and brown rice.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Many other factors influence the GI of a food. Fiber content, fat content, ripeness, and type of starch also affect the GI. Thus some foods like potatoes and bananas have a high GI.

Diets that advise you to eat a low amount of carbohydrates have gone part of the way to increase awareness of the differences of carbs. The Glycemic Index has also helped us to determine that all carbs are not created equal. Some kinds of carbohydrates help promote health, but others actually increase the risk for diseases like diabetes and coronary heart disease.

What should we eat?

The general rule is that highly processed carbs are not as good for us as natural carbs. How can we get away from highly refined foods ? it?s everywhere you look! Here are some techniques for buying food:

  1. Educate yourself? learn to read the backs of packages of food and know the difference between a processed food and a natural food. (However, if it?s packaged in a box, bag, or can ? chances are it?s processed.)
  2. Go to the store with a list.
  3. Do not go to the store hungry.
  4. Do not go to fast food restaurants? instead try out diners or restaurants that boast home cooked meals.
  5. Get your fruits and vegetables from farmers markets or farm stands whenever possible. Not only will you save money, you will also be getting better quality produce.

Read more about The Glycemic Index

Need help counting your carbs? The NutriCounter is an excellent device that will help you monitor your carbohydrate intake. It's available in Palm OS and Pocket PC software or as a hand held unit.

General Disclaimer

This section of the NutriCounter site is designed for educational purposes only. The information provided through this site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Renee Kennedy is the editor of the free monthly ezine - NutriCounter Update. Visit the NutriCounter Health News section for an extensive selection of articles on health, nutrition and exercise.

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