Caution with Carbs!

Does your palate crave for a piece of scrumptious cake with creamy rich chocolate filling after dinner? Do you feel that once you take the first bite of that sugar-loaded piece of heaven that your willpower to say "no" flies out of the window? You are not alone....join the club of millions of people inflicted with sugar addiction. Here are some facts about the most talked about macro-nutrient:
Basic Facts about Carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates are one of the macro-nutrients that are broken down to glucose to provide energy for bodily functions. They are divided into simple, complex carbohydrates and fibers. Simple Carbohydrates are sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose, whereas complex carbohydrates are starches that are made up of many sugar molecules, joined together. Fibers are the carbohydrates found in plant-source only.
Functional Facts about Carbohydrates:
1. Natural Vs Added - Carbohydrates that are found naturally in the foods like fructose in fruits or lactose in dairy products are a good source of carbohydrates than added sugars found in sweetened beverages, desserts, and other processed foods.
2. Go with the colors - Green colored kale, orange colored carrots, and red kidney beans not only add color to your plate but also provide you with a healthy source of carbohydrates.
3. Wipe off the whites - Say "no" to the refined carbohydrates found in the white food like white bread, potato, and sugar. Refined carbohydrates get absorbed quickly increasing the sugar level in the body. As Johny rightly said "Eating Sugar, No Papa"!
4. Interpreting the labels - Beware..sugar can go by different names like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, agave nectar, fructose sweetener, dextrose etc. Paying attention to these added sugars on the food label will help you to make a healthy decision. Higher the position on the label, larger is the quantity of it in that particular food.
5. Fit in Fiber - Fiber usually comes from the plant source and are not absorbed by the body. Hence they do not increase the sugar levels. Chose your fiber source from legumes, peas, apples and green beans. Daily quota of 25-30 grams of fiber from natural plant-source is essential to maintain digestive health, improve satiety and decrease cholesterol level. The easiest way to get 25-30 grams of fiber/day is to start with whole grain cereal like oatmeal, eat at least 1 whole fruit/day, snack on raw vegetables and substitute meat with legumes, white rice with brown rice or quinoa and white pasta with whole grain pasta.
6. Advice on Artificial sweeteners - Sugar-free may not be completely sugar/carb free. There are 6 FDA approved sugar substitutes in the US. These artificial sweeteners are 100 times sweeter than sugar and must be used in very small amounts only. In my opinion, natural sweeteners like agave or honey are preferable to artificial sweetener.
7. Diabetic diet - If you have diabetes, it is advisable to consult with a Dietitian or Diabetic educator to learn about carb counting and to customize your meal plan.
8. Curbing the cravings - Avoid taking that tempting first bite, if you indulge in one it will soon push you into an avalanche of carb indulgence. Space meals equally during the day so that there is no rapid fluctuation in sugar level, low sugar level itself will cause the cravings. Fool your body with natural sugars in fruits instead of added sugars. A bowl of blueberries or strawberries with a dollop of fat-free whipped cream may satisfy your sweet tooth as good as a bowl of ice cream! Anytime chose water to quench your thirst over sugar-sweetened beverage or soda.
9. Zero-in on the diet -There is nothing called Zero-Carb diet since all foods have some amount of carbohydrate. Instead of avoiding carbs completely, I recommend choosing the right type of carbs found in legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy to our body. We all need it for survival. It is not all that bad as it has been portrayed in recent years if it is from right, natural source. So make your choice of carbs wisely, consume in smaller portions, combine it with other macro-nutrients like unsaturated fat and protein, most importantly stay away from the added sugars.

Author
Dr. Chandrasekaran Aparna Chandrasekaran, MD, is board certified in Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine. Her primary area of care is centered around screening, preventing and management of overweight/ obesity. She offers a comprehensive medically supervised weight loss program at Jersey Medical Weight Loss Center, Somerset,NJ. She is a member of Obesity Medicine Association and is actively involved in spreading awareness about Obesity through her blogs, radio show, and presentations. Her article " Body Mass Index-Is It Reliable Indicator of Obesity" got published in the Journal of Nutrition & Weight Loss in February 2018.

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