Carbohydrates are vital to good health. The terms good and bad carbohydrates get thrown around. We are presuming carbohydrates are guilty of a crime. Why else would we label them as good or bad? Truth is carbohydrates provide energy, nutrients, and aid in GI health which contributes to good health. Carbohydrates are easily accessible and come from a variety of sources: bean, grains, fruits, legumes and vegetables.
When we consume carbohydrates, our goal should be to replace and resupply glycogen and fiber. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose. Another name for glucose is blood sugar. Glucose is the preferred energy source for all the body’s activities. The brain and central nervous system require glucose. Although the body has a survival mechanism that allows it to use ketones (derived from fat) and/or amino acids (derived from proteins) to meet its needs when glucose is very low. Fiber is indigestible and helps in the regulation of bile acids, increase satiety, lowered blood fat and cholesterol, reduced risk of cancer, proper intestinal motility and overall gut health.
So, what is a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are a combination of single molecules known as monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, galactose), disaccharides (pairs of monosaccharides) or polysaccharides (long chains of monosaccharides and disaccharides). In simpler terms monosaccharides and disaccharides are known as simple carbohydrates or simple sugars. Polysaccharides are known as complex carbohydrates: glycogen, starches and fiber.
Plants are the only sources of carbohydrates. Recall beans, grains, fruits, legumes and vegetables are sources of carbohydrates. When it comes to carbohydrate consumption most people meet their needs by consuming grains or fried foods. Think pasta, breads, pastries and French fries. If we want to improve our overall health, increase energy levels, improve bowel movements, lose body fat and have a sense of vitality then you need to make a shift in carbohydrate consumption. Move away from pasta, breads, pastries, French fries and include more wholesome choices. Choose to eat fruits and vegetables. The overall recommendation for men and women is to eat 2-2 ½ cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables each day.
I have found although most us may have a fruit or vegetable we despise, for me its onions. I think they should be banned. Overall most like fruits and vegetables they just haven’t regularly incorporated them into their diet. Good news, you can start today. So, here’s the plan:
- Take out a sheet of paper and make two columns. Label column 1 ‘fruits’ and column 2 ‘veggies’ in each column write down your favorites.
- Next, think about which fruits or vegetables you can add to each meal.
- Make sure you have the fruits or vegetables you intend to include available and readily accessible (don’t over stock)
You may be thinking what a cup of fruits or vegetables looks like. Well it is typically a piece of fruit for example an apple or 1 cup of grapes or chopped fruit. Same for vegetables 1 large green pepper or 1 cupped of cut/chopped asparagus.
Here is an example of 2 ½ cups of fruits and 3 cups of vegetables:
Top row left to right 1 cup asparagus, 1 cup sliced zucchini, 1 large green bell pepper. Bottom row left to right ½ grapes, 1 green apple, 1 orange.
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