In order to know how to choose the best carbohydrate foods we have to know something about carbohydrates. I know this is not the kind of reading most of us want to do, but, it is necessary. So, ask yourself, just how important is it to me to be healthy? With so many voices trying to lead you down a path you need knowledge to make informed choices. Knowledge that will give you confidence to choose what is best for you. Be wise, do not let others set your course for you. Do not count on the slick marketeers to decide your best course to healthy living.
Carbohydrates make up the body's main source of energy. They are the largest volume of our daily food. We take them in the form of all foods made of grain flour, cereals, pasta, potatoes and other vegetables. They are also found in the form of sugars contained in fruits, syrups, honey and candy, as well as in the form of common table "sugar".
So what are simple carbohydrates?
They are just what they sound like: Simple sugars, which quickly transform to glucose in your body. Simple carbohydrates include naturally occurring sugars and are more commonly found in refined and processed foods, including white breads, sugary beverages and candy.
Glucose is the most common type of sugar and the primary form of sugar that is stored in the body for energy.
Fructose, the primary sugar found in fruits, also is found in honey and high-fructose corn syrup (in soft drinks) and is a major source of sugar in the diet of Americans.
Galactose, (it is found in dairy products, sugar beets, and other gums and mucilages), is less likely than glucose or fructose to be found in nature. Both fructose and galactose are metabolized to glucose for use by the body.
Complex carbohydrates are more slowly digested and almost always found in foods more healthful than their simple counterparts. Complex carbohydrates often supply energy and other nutrients and fiber that the body needs. They are a better choice. They are found in foods with less processing. The closer to raw the food is the better for you it is.
Health benefits of complex carbohydrates
1. Complex carbs aid weight management. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates are often lower in calories. It generally takes more time to eat 100 calories of a banana than it does to consume 100 calories of soda. Calorie for calorie, complex carbohydrates are more satisfying and the calories add up more slowly when compared to simple carbs.
2. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer. Most Americans don't get the recommended amount of fiber per day: 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Increasing your complex carbohydrate foods always means an associated rise in fiber intake. Plus, fiber helps you feel fuller for longer resulting in the need to eat less often.
3. Complex carbs contain nutritional benefits. There are two many nutritional benefits to count for switching to complex carbohydrates. These foods contain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other nutrients that are rarely present in simple-sugar food items.
Be a smart consumer
Choose complex carbs over simple carbs
People and dieters alike are finally waking up to the fact that carbs are not the enemy. There is a renewed interest in the benefits of complex carbohydrates and whole grains. Grain products are staple foods and sources of simple and complex carbohydrates that provide energy for the body.
But use caution; food manufacturers are exploiting this interest with many ways designed to confuse complex-carb seekers. A good whole grain food choice should be made primarily from whole grains. It sounds simple, but it's easy to get misled:
Be wary of misleading food labels
Regulation surrounding labeling claims on whole grain foods is weak. Any food with a minute amount of whole grain in it can be labeled "whole grain". Check the ingredient list: if "enriched" is in the first ingredient, it is a poor choice. Look for the word "whole" in the first ingredient to make sure it is a good whole grain food. Keep an eye out for the fiber content in your food
The truth is in the label, and particularly the "fiber" section of the label. A good serving of whole grains will have 3 grams of fiber or more per serving. Only choose breads, pastas, cereals and grains that meet this requirement. You can't go wrong with eating fresh fruit and vegetables
These are your best sources of complex carbohydrates. They are packed with nutrients and fiber and make great snacks throughout the day.
Keeping your carbohydrates to approximately 55-60% of your total calorie intake is a good way to divide your nutrients. The majority of carbohydrate calories should be received from complex rather than simple carbohydrates. Of total caloric intake, approximately 50 percent of calories should be from complex carbohydrates, and 10 percent from simple carbohydrates. Follow this rule of thumb: "Make half your grains whole" and eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. These strategies will ensure that your complex carbohydrate intake is adequate.
STARCH - is the medium used by plants to store energy. In the body starch breaks down into simple sugars. The body has to break down all sugar/starch into glucose to use it. Starch supplies the body with sustained energy. Starch represents the main type of digestible complex carbohydrate. All starchy foods come from plants.
Seeds are the first and the richest source or starch; 70 percent of their weight is starch.
The second best source of starch is the bean and pea family. These include dry beans such as lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and soybeans. These vegetables are about 40 percent starch by weight and contain a substantial amount of protein.
The third important source of starch is the tubers, like the potato, yam, and cassava.
DIETARY FIBER - is found in plant cells. It is tough and stringy, and it does not break down thoroughly in the body. Fiber contains sugars linked by bonds that cannot be broken down by human enzymes, and as a result are labeled as indigestible. Therefore, most fibers do not provide energy for the body, but are essential for regulating the body.
The indigestible fibers make up the structural part of plants and are classified as insoluble fiber because they usually do not dissolve in water. Cellulose is a non starch carbohydrate polymer and can be found in whole-wheat flour, bran, and vegetables. Hemicellulose is a non starch carbohydrate polymer made of glucose, galactose, xylose, and other monosaccharides; it can be found in bran and whole grains. Lignin, a noncarbohydrate polymer containing alcohols and acids, is a woody fiber found in wheat bran and the seeds of fruits and vegetables.
Soluble fibers are those which will dissolve or swell in water. They are not broken down by human enzymes, but rather can be metabolized (or fermented) by bacteria present in the large intestine. Pectin, because it absorbs water and forms a gel, is often used in jams and jellies. Sources of pectin include citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, and carrots.
Substances that provide energy
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients that provide the body with energy ( protein and fats being the other two). Today we are only covering Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats will be covered in later articles.
Substances that support metabolism
In order to use the energy contained in the carbohydrates humans must break down the structure of the molecule. It starts with the carbohydrate and oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, water, and energy. The body utilizes the energy and water and rids itself of the carbon dioxide.
* Dietary minerals are generally trace elements, salts, or ions such as copper and iron. Some of these minerals are essential to human metabolism.
* Vitamins are organic compounds essential to the body. They usually act as coenzymes or cofactors for various proteins in the body.
* Water is an essential nutrient and is the solvent in which all the chemical reactions of life take place.