Get Over It: Carbohydrate Foods Are Actually Necessary to a Healthy Diet

It was not that long ago that the word "carbohydrate" was considered one of the worst things you could say, the bane of dieters everywhere. People tried to eliminate them wherever and whenever possible - at the cost of the foods that they actually needed. The worst offender in the anti-carb brigade was the Atkins diet, a plan that suggested eating bacon cheeseburgers hold the bun, the lettuce and the tomato. And, the followers were thrilled to death - (possibly literally). They stopped eating salads and started eating meats stuffed with other meats. Turkey dinner? Fine, but skip the cornbread stuffing and the rolls and don't you even think of a sliver of that pumpkin pie. Turkey stuffed with stuffing was a no-no, turkey stuffed with a duck was perfectly fine. In what might be the perfect example of protein overkill, people were even allowed to eat "turducken," a turkey stuffed with a duck which itself was stuffed with a chicken. All of the traditional side dishes were banned however.

015/366 - Brown rice

The problem with these types of diets, as it quickly became known, was the fact that carbohydrate foods are actually necessary - to the body, to the brain, and to an overall healthy diet. About two weeks or so after starting one of these carbohydrate foods restricting diets, the average person found themselves dealing with frustrations and mood problems. They were unhappy, even depressed. And the mood problems were only the tip of the iceberg. There were bowel problems and others that were not as immediately evident. Those problems are just now being discovered. The University of Illinois department of food science and human nutrition performed some research which showed that while high protein, or rather higher protein diets actually helps with effective weight loss, the typical high protein diet, such as the Atkins diet was not nutritionally sound.

According to research lead, Donald Layman, "The Atkins diet is particularly high fat and not nutritionally sound." The researchers cautioned that while higher protein diets are a good choice, they should be of lower fat. Some people should be cautioned against eating a high protein diet if they have certain conditions including those with high cholesterol. Researchers are still figuring out exactly how much protein is needed in the diet. They know that there is an upper limit to the nutrient for safety, but the right amount is eluding them.

Good Carbohydrates, Bad Carbohydrates

All foods can be broken down into one of three categories: protein, carbohydrate or fats. From there, foods can be further broken down into good choices and bad choices. Carbohydrates are no exception to that rule. Good carbohydrates include the whole grains, carbs that are unbleached and unprocessed. Brown rice and brown breads are a better choice than their white counterparts but always read the labels. Some breads that are labeled as "wheat" bread are technically nothing more than white bread with a little molasses for coloring. Look for words like "whole grain" or "stone ground flour" as the first ingredient when choosing bread. But, there are more choices that can be made as well.

Quinoa and barley are a unique and interesting way to get your grains and are flavorful and healthy. Good carbohydrates are slowly digested in the body not causing the serious sugar spikes and weight gain that other carbs do.

Bad carbohydrates are the white flours and white sugars - the foods that will digest too quickly in the body and lead the body to flood streams of insulin out to deal with the overwhelming amount of blood sugar. The more sugar that the body has to deal with, the more likely it is to store it as fat instead of using it as energy. It is the body's ability to handle and deal with sugar that determines whether or not we become diabetic or not.

Choosing Better Carbohydrate Foods

For some people, using the glycemic index to choose the right carbohydrate foods is easier than struggling to do the difficult math calculations in their heads whenever they want a piece of bread or a bowl of popcorn. The glycemic index is a score that is given to food based on how much it changes the blood sugar levels after it is eaten. The standard is a single slice of white bread. Foods that raise the blood sugar level higher than that white bread are considered high glycemic foods and those that do not are low glycemic foods.

Carbohydrate foods that should be considered off limits during a healthy diet, especially one for weight loss include: simple carbohydrates such as high fructose corn syrup, bleached flours and added sugars. Don't forget that there are a number of simple carbohydrate foods that are not actually foods - beverages can and do contribute to weight gain as well, especially when they are filled with empty calories that do not contribute any nutrition or satisfaction.

A Warning about Carbohydrate Foods

The human brain, that wondrous organ of twisted and convoluted surface materials is still nearly a complete mystery to modern science. That organ, with all of its mysteries is still pretty simple when it comes to its chosen energy sources - carbohydrates are the only foods that the brain will accept as energy. Without carbohydrates, the brain will not function as it should. You become dull and start having foggy thinking. Your reaction time is much slower than it should be.

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