When you're trying to lose weight or eat healthier, it may seem like
carbs are the enemy. But there's a big difference between the carbohydrates
found in fruit or whole grains and those found in cookies or white bread.
The latter have what's known as refined carbohydrates, and those can
be a pitfall to healthy living.
"You need carbs because they give your body energy by converting into
Henry Kaw, Jr., MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Jude Medical Center. "The complex carbohydrates that are naturally occurring in foods,
such as fiber, are good for you, and they've actually been shown to
help fight disease and prevent weight gain. But the carbs found in manufactured
foods, such as added sugars and grains stripped of their fiber through
processing, like with white flour, can be detrimental to your health."
In fact, studies have reported that refined carbs can have an impact on
your health in several ways, including:
Type 2 Diabetes - "Research has shown that an increase in eating refined carbohydrates
can lead to an increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes," Dr. Kaw
says. "In turn, type 2 diabetes can wreak havoc on your health. It
can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease and nerve and kidney damage,
among other problems."
Obesity - "Fiber makes us feel fuller, so we eat less," Dr. Kaw says.
"But take the fiber away, as you do with processed foods, and there
is a tendency to eat more, which can lead to weight gain. A salad made
with quinoa and fresh vegetables will fill you up and leave you more satisfied
than a bagel with cream cheese, plus it has more nutritional benefits."
Depression - A recent study in
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a possible link between increased risk of depression and consumption
of refined carbs in older women. "The researchers theorized that
the refined carbs caused blood sugar spikes, which then triggered hormonal
reactions that affected mood," Dr. Kaw says.
To help guide you, Dr. Kaw offers a list of refined carb-heavy foods to
avoid, as well as foods with "good" carbs to replace them with
in your diet. "Carbohydrates are a necessary part of eating well,
you just have to be smart in what you choose to eat. Look for ingredients
such as corn syrup, sugar and white flour -- those are usually warning
signs of refined carbs. You really can't go wrong with minimally processed
REFINED CARB SOURCES TO AVOID
- White bread or rolls
- White pasta or rice
- Soda, fruit juice or other sugary drinks
- Baked goods such as muffins, pies and cakes
- Pancakes and waffles
- Crackers made with refined flours or grains
- Sauces, salad dressings and dairy products made with added sugars
GOOD CARB SOURCES
- Whole grains such as steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa or brown rice
- Whole fruits and vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and nut butters with no added sugar
- Stone-ground whole-grain crackers and breads
- Poultry, seafood and meat
- Sauces, salad dressings and dairy products without added sugars
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