Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nutrition Class, Part Four

Crusty baguettes. Pumpkin muffins. Pasta marinara. Toast with jam.
You name it, carbs. They're everywhere. And for good reason. I mean, a good steak is one thing but do you really enjoy chicken breast after chicken breast that much? And no one I know enjoys butter enough to say that they would eat a whole stick. I have, however, heard of a whole loaf of bread being consumed in one sitting. I won't say who.

Carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel in our diet and for good reason. Carbohydrates are simply, sugar. Who can deny their love for sugar? Let me introduce another way to think about carbohydrates. As we discussed in our nutrition class, carbohydrates must reclaim their good name. Carbs do not make us fat. It isn't as if we are scooping white sugar right into our system. We must reform the popular belief that all carbs are bad. Think about them as energy that nourish our bodies, the fuel for our engine.

There are two different categories of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars found in milk, table sugar, and honey. Complex carbohydrates, which should be our primary fuel, are found in grains. This is similar to the idea of whole grains; however, whole grains are more tied to the idea of fiber. You probably know that your breakfast cereal is a carbohydrate, but did you know that carbohydrates include milk, fruits, vegetables, legumes such as beans, as well as whole grains? If you choose to eliminate carbs from your diet, you are eliminating the major sources of calories from your diet.

Carbohydrates contain more than calories. They are rich in B-vitamins, contain small, healthy amounts of fats containing Vitamin E and a great source of antioxidants like lignans. They are also a source of fiber. Fiber is a part of a carbohydrate we can't digest. It is a starch like that found in grass, which, unless you are a cow with three stomachs, you can't digest. What's the point then of eating fiber? I tell little kids fiber is like a toothbrush for your intestines. That "grit" in fiber helps with the sloughing off of the dead cells in our intestines, which, like our skin, turn over every 2-3 days. Imagine if you never exfoliated your skin; then don't neglect your insides!

Fiber is also an important component of feeling full. If you aim to eat 25 grams of fiber a day, it can help with weight management. More than that, most of the high fiber foods are also the most nutrient-dense foods contain the greatest amount of antioxidants, which are powerful disease fighters.

Imagine a "diet" that made you so satisfied, so full and so healthy that you didn't have room for anything else. This is a diet where you can always "eat more". This is the diet made of the three "Eat More's". Your goal is to constantly be thinking, "How can I eat MORE...
...Fruits and Vegetables
...Whole Grains
...Healthy Fats

The question I get most often as a dietitian is, "What does a healthy diet look like??"
Start with fiber. It is a simple thing to count. Think about it as a budget, where you must spend $25 dollars in a day with the foods you eat, representing the 25 grams of fiber you aim to eat.
Read here at the Mayo Clinic to find more high fiber foods.

Start with whole grain cereal with milk for breakfast.+4 grams but if you just add 1/2 cup frozen blueberries or 1/4 cup raisins you increase your fiber by + 3 grams
Then for a snack, eat a pear + 5 grams.
Eat a healthy lunch like a sandwich on bread with 3 grams of fiber per slice +6 grams.
Snack on low-fat popcorn in the afternoon and add 6 grams.
Enjoy a side salad with dinner +2 grams and a medium potato +5 grams with your meat.

This day doesn't include all the other little snack you might have or dictate the exact portion of things. The point of this is to show you how a diet should always be about what you add first. Most of the time, we are over-fed and under-nourished. Guilt makes people swear they will "stop eating such-and-such". This is doing the right thing by subtraction, which will fail ultimately. Start by adding the right things in your diet. The wrong things will start to become less in the balance of the best things.
More on healthy fats next week...

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