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FIRST-PERSON: Carb is not a four-letter word

DALLAS (BP)–Over the last few years, carbohydrates or “carbs” have gotten a bad rap. Every time I go in a book store, I see a variety of low carb diet books and cookbooks, and many of my favorite restaurants are now offering low carb menu selections.

But it’s important to remember that not all carbs are created equally. While some forms of carbohydrates do provide empty calories with little or no nutritional value, many forms are actually very good for you.

There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fibers. Different types of carbohydrates play different roles in your diet. Sugars and starches supply energy in the form of glucose, the primary energy source for the brain, central nervous system and red blood cells.

Fibers promote intestinal health and may help decrease the risk of certain chronic diseases. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread or oatmeal, can help protect against disease, and the fiber in these foods can help you feel full longer, which helps promote weight loss.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the new food pyramid, make it clear we need to do a better job of choosing healthful carbohydrates. When making food choices, I try to include the carbs that get me the most nutrition and that best satisfy my hunger.

Instead of reaching for a glass of juice, which I can drink down in just a few seconds, I usually choose fresh fruit. Whole fruit takes longer to eat, contains fewer calories and also satisfies my hunger. As a general rule, I try to stay away from foods that are overly processed — such as white flour products; starchy vegetables like potatoes; and sugary foods like soft drinks and candy.

Good, healthy carbs include complex carbohydrates. Examples include: whole-grain cereals, whole-grain wheat bread, fruits, vegetables, whole-grain rice, oatmeal, dried beans, whole-wheat pasta.

If you find it difficult to remember which ones are simple carbohydrates (bad) and which ones are complex (good) just remember, “If it’s white, don’t take a bite!” Trade white bread for wheat; white potatoes for sweet potatoes; white rice for brown; white pasta for wheat, etc.

Healthy carbs contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are essential to overall health. They will give you the energy you need for an active lifestyle and keep your weight in check.
Tamara Quintana is a graduate of All Saints Episcopal Hospital School of Vocational Nursing and the director of the employee wellness program for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Tamara Quintana