I wanted to touch on this topic here on Moni’s blog, as many Moni’s customers probably eat a fair amount of carbs (Hello, pasta!). Over the past couple of decades, carbohydrates have really gotten a bad wrap from people like Dr. Atkins and other fad diet trendsetters. As a result, people have started to dodge carbs as if they were bullets. But are they really that bad for you? Yes and no.
Did you know that the USDA recommends that 65% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates? Did you know that there are “good carbs” and “bad carbs”? Do you know what foods contain each type of carbs? If you answered “no” to any of these, you’re in the right place!
“Good carbs”, or complex carbs, are carbs derived from plant based foods (i.e. fruit, beans, grains, etc) that are packed with fiber. These carbs are absorbed slowly into our systems, and do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. There are numerous benefits to eating these kinds of carbohydrates. Fiber (while in and of itself cannot be absorbed by our bodies) slows down the absorption of other nutrients, including carbs! This prevents blood sugar spikes and dips, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes. Fiber can also lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol, increase satiety (making you feel fuller longer, due to the slowed absorption), and increase bowel regularity, lowering your risk for polyps, hemorrhoids, and colon cancer.
“Bad Carbs”, or simple carbs, are the carbohydrates that are found in refined and processed foods (white breads, pasta, etc) or sugary foods. These carbs pretty much turn to sugar the second they hit your blood stream. This is great if you’re a runner like me and need a quick supply of energy in the form of glucose, but not so great if you’re diabetic! (So, as you can see, even the “bad carbs” aren’t bad in all circumstances.)
So, what can you do? Well, I don’t recommend cutting carbs out of your diet altogether. One, that’s not healthy, and two, it’s miserable! Carbs are in nearly everything you eat, with the exception of meat. The best thing to do is find a balance. I’m all about balance. Increase your good carbs, and decrease your bad carbs. One habit you can kick immediately to nix excess sugar and bad carbs? Get rid of soda and other sugary drinks. Switch to diet, unsweet (or sweetened with Stevia or Splenda) tea, or water. This will cut an insane amount of sugary carbs from your diet.
The recommended daily fiber values are 25-35 grams for women and 35-45 for men. So, add in good, fibery carbs by eating more fruits and veggies, oats, grains, and beans, and by choosing wheat bread over white, whole wheat or fiber enforced pasta, etc. Also, there are quite a few tasty, fiber-fortified snacks out there made by brands like Fiber One (who make a variety of tasty snack bars and brownies) and Fiber Plus, who also make some great tasting snack bars. Both brands make high fiber cereals, which my husband loves as his primary source of fiber. There are a couple of unlikely sources of fiber that I am happy to bring to your attention. Popcorn is an excellent source of fiber! But before you go to a movie and order a jumbo bucket of butter-laden popcorn (as I think that would completely offset any nutritional benefit), try the 100 calorie pop varieties of lightly buttered or (my personal favorite) kettle corn. They are quite tasty and offer 4g of fiber per bag. Another unlikely source: Hostess 100 Calorie Snack Cakes (chocolate and cinnamon streusel) carry 5g of fiber per package! Finally, one of my all time favs: Vitalicious VitaTops. They pack 8-9g of fiber per 100 calorie VitaTop, and they come in flavors such as Deep Chocolate, Fudgy Peanut Butter Chip, Banana Nut, Pumpkin, etc. Order them online or find them in your grocery store (they can be a little hard to find).
Finally, a good rule of thumb for carb selection is: the whiter the food, the more refined and processed it is. However, some “multi grain” breads on the shelves at your grocery store are actually more refined than you would think! A lot of them actually dye the bread a brown color to give it a more “grainy” appearance. Yuck! Your safest best is to flip it over and look at the label yourself. You’ll want to look at the fiber and sugar content, both found under the total carbohydrates value (see image). To know how many “good carbs” you’re getting, subtract the number of sugar grams from the total number of carbohydrates. The carbs from sugar are the “bad carbs”.
Another thing you’ll want to watch out for is low fat or no fat snack foods. This recent reduced fat or fat free snack trend is causing Americans to unwittingly eat more added sugar, as most of these foods substitute sugar for fat (hey, the flavor’s gotta come from somewhere!). Added sugar adds carbs and calories without increasing the nutritional value. Again, read your labels.
So, next time you’re serving up your favorite Moni’s sauce, try substituting some whole wheat pasta for white to up your fiber content. Oh, and by the way, tomatoes have fiber too!
Until next time, age well and live long!
Freelance Writer- Holly Bone