We are switching gears for this edition of Factoid Friday and diving into nutrition.
I am going to explain the three major nutrients over the course of the next three weeks. Today we are starting with Carbohydrates. Check back the next two friday's for Fats and Protein. They all do pretty amazing stuff for the body!
When wanting to lose weight, most people think of carbohydrates as evil. But, the problem is most people associate carbs with simple sugars like cookies, breads, chocolate, candy, etc.
Did you know that carbs serve a multitude of functions in the body? They provide energy for physical activity, energy for the cells in the body, provide a reserve fuel supply, help protect and fuel the liver, heart, central nervous system, and regulate protein and fat. That's a lot for one nutrient!
Simple and Complex
They are found in grains, legumes, veggies, and fruits. The two basic types of carbs are complex and simple. Complex carbs are the whole grain foods, like whole grain breads, whole oats, and brown rice. These whole grains retain the bran layer, inner germ and endosperm of the kernel. They keep the natural nutrients. Simple carbs are what's found in fruit (fructose), milk (lactose), processed foods, and white breads (flour). They are the quickest to breakdown in the body. Also included are "enriched grains" - which means they are refined grains and have the nutrients added back to them.
Why would anyone want "refine" a grain and rip off the bran layer and germ layer of a whole grain? Then further refine the grain by mixing, bleaching, brominating, and THEN add in (less than half of) the nutrients that the kernel already provided?? That's a great question, folks! Well, there are a few reasons that I know of, but I can't speak for the big processing companies of today. The processed grains have a longer shelf life, make bread softer, and it makes the flour very white. Stupid reasons? I think so.
So, now, if the first/second ingredient on a product listed is 'Enriched Flour' you now know exactly what they did to get it that way. How can you make a change in your pantry to add more whole grains and less refined grains?
Fiber is a complex carb that is not digestible; therefore, it moves food through our systems. It is found mainly in the structural parts of plants, and in whole grains.
The daily recommended intake is 35g for men/25g for women. Generally, our diets are pretty low in fiber (considering all the processed foods we eat). Fiber aids in digestion, lowers cholesterol, lowers the risk of colon cancer, and lowers blood glucose spikes. It is good for you!
- From the carbohydrates we eat in the United States, 39% come from grains, 39% from added sugars, and 22% from other sources.
- How much should you eat? The Dietary Reference Intakes set by the government say that we should have 45%-65% of carbs in our diet.
- What is considered an added sugar? We definitely eat enough sugar, but most products have extra sugar added to them - meaning not found naturally in the product. Here are names of some of those added sugars:
- brown sugar
- corn sweetener
- corn syrup
- fruit juice concentrate
- high fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
Which products do they add the most added sugars to?
- 33% in soft drinks
- 16.1% in candy
- 12.9% cakes, cookies, pies
- 9.7% fruit drinks
- 8.6% dairy desserts/milk products
- 5.8% other grains - cereals, waffles, etc
I hope you have learned something new today about carbohydrates. They are not all bad for you, but what can you do to make a change in your eating habits if you find yourself eating a lot of simple carbs? I hope you have begun to make your health a priority, and one big step is to eat more healthy and complex carbs.
Source: Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 13th edition textbook