How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m cutting out carbs,” or “I can’t eat that because it has too many carbohydrates?” The common belief in eating “low carb” may not be beneficial. Low carb is not balanced, and our bodies crave balance.
A balanced diet includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats along with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Water and fiber are also important for healthy lifestyle. Carbohydrate foods should make up about 50 percent of your daily calories. The brain runs on carbohydrates (glucose). To think you need these type of nutrients to function. You are created with the protective ability to convert protein, or fat into carbohydrate if need be to ensure that the brain will have glucose available no matter what you choose to eat. The ideal source of nutrition for your body would contain a variety of nutrients, hence a variety of foods. Beware of programs and guidelines that tell you to “never” eat certain foods or groups of foods.
The kinds of carbohydrate we choose to consume can make a difference in our overall health. It is prudent to limit one’s intake of highly refined and processed carbohydrates. These will have a fairly high Glycemic Index which is a useful tool to compare how quickly individual carbohydrate foods convert to blood sugar.
Here are some examples of unhealthy (refined) carbohydrates:
• Soda pop
• Hard candy, table sugar, candy sweets
• White bread, pastry, soda crackers (beware of “wheat bread” that is made from white flour)
• White rice
• Refined breakfast cereals
• Snack Foods
If your diet has a large amount of food from previous list, you may eventually experience consequences or negative results from your choices. These can include common concerns such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, increased risk of cancer, and digestive problems such as constipation and diverticulitis.
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Consider instead a less refined diet that includes a wide variety of whole, or unprocessed plant based foods. Include plenty of complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates have these characteristics:
• Plant based foods that have not been highly refined or processed
• High in dietary fiber
• High in antioxidants and phytonutrients
• Absorbed more slowly, normalizing blood sugar and insulin levels
• Moderate in calories but high in nutrition
Examples include: fruits, vegetables, legumes & beans, whole grains. One simple way to improve your intake of complex carbohydrates is to simply “Power Up your Fiber.” Full Plate Living has introduced this concept as an easy tool to help people make sound nutritious choices.
There is actually a lot of wisdom in the adage: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ Apples contain carbohydrates, fiber and phytonutrients. People have successfully lost weight just by adding apples into their eating plan. Registered Dietitian Tammy Flynn was working with one of her clients to help her increase how much fruit she included in her diet, so she suggested this individual eat an apple prior to each meal. This simple suggestion resulted in successful weight loss for her client. She then incorporated this plan into to the guidelines for a fitness contest. 376 people lost 6,312 pounds in 12 weeks.
Knowing that carbohydrates are a key nutrition component of a healthy lifestyle. Evaluate your current meal patterns, and then incorporate simple principles to guide your food choices. For those always traveling, or working in aviation, plan ahead and pack some portable high fiber foods like raw veggies, a veggie salad, fresh fruit, bean salad, hummus and veggies, or a veggie wrap. When tempted to indulge in the highly refined carbs, ask yourself,
“What choices can I include in my meal plan that add nutrition to my diet?”
If you eat a donut, be sure to eat something with nutrition value also. Your body is asking for nutrients, not just a highly processed item. Have some almonds or trail mix available so you can have a healthy snack and curb the sugar cravings.
Healthy eating is about choosing the best source of nutrients and giving your body the foods that will promote wellness. You are the nutrition expert. You design your life.
Brenda Mulder can be found at inflightdietitian.com, a website that offers ‘Healthy Choices For Travel Junkies.’ Specifically geared toward flight crews and frequent travelers the website offers resources to help create a healthy lifestyle for those always on the go. This article was first published there.