Monday, May 10, 2010

Refined Carbs Aren't Good for You! *Shocker!*

I hope you sense the sarcasm in my title. I was skimming through the health section on the New York Times website and I found a link to an article that stated refined carbohydrates may be worse for you than saturated fats!

America Runs on Dunkin' my ass!

The states:
Eat less saturated fat: that has been the take-home message from the U.S. government for the past 30 years. But while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.
Lets take a look at products that are considered "refined" or "processed" carbohydrates:

Any white bread product, including bagels, english muffins, hamburger or hotdog rolls etc.



Donuts (yes even the little munchkins too!)







Pizza Crust

White Rice

Pie Crust


Any product made with "Enriched Wheat Flour", "Wheat Flour", or "Durum Wheat Flour"...essentially these are not Whole Grain flours. Now after looking at this list a light bulb should go off in your head and you should be thinking "well, duh... I know those foods aren't good for me... they are loaded with sugar and fats."

However, even if you don't eat most of the sweets on that list, you can still be eating poorly if your diet consists of plain white bread or pasta products which can eventually be turned to sugars and fats if not burned off. What happens in the body that turns even something as plain as white bread into sugar? Here's a segment from the book "You are What You Eat" that I posted in my Skinny on Sugar post:

When you eat food, glucose from the digestive breakdown of the food is absorbed into your gut and blood. The body takes what is requires and then produces insulin to lower glucose levels back to normal, converting the excess glucose into a compound called glycogen which is stored by the liver.

On a healthy diet this process works perfectly, but excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, particularly sugary foods, upsets the balance and everything starts to go haywire. Your body has to produce increasing amounts of insulin to break down the sugars. Eventually you become resistant to the insulin, and instead of converting excess glucose into glycogen, it turns into fat. You are then caught in a vicious cycle where the more unstable your blood sugar levels, the more prone you will be to craving sweets and unrefined carbohydrates like bread.

An imbalance of the hormone insulin can often be the root cause of overweight. Too much sugar causes glucose intolerance in the body, and when you are overweight you break down sugar less effectively. It's a Catch-22 situation.

Now, don't freak out and start thinking that ALL carbohydrates are bad for you.

The truth is, the right kind of carbs are quite good for you.

The right kind of Carbs provide energy, help keep you fuller longer and are loaded with Vitamin B and other essential nutrients! So what are those "right kind of carbs"?

They're whole grains...YUM!!! :)

You need to look on your food label to find out if a product contains whole gains, sometimes an advertisement on the front of the package can be misleading...(and the product often only contains a small percentage of whole grain flours instead of being 100% of the good stuff)

Here's some info from the Whole Grains Council on what to look for on your nutrition labels!

YES-- If your label says any of these names the product contains all parts of the grain, so you're getting all the nutrients of the whole grain.

* whole grain [name of grain]
* whole wheat
* whole [other grain]
* stoneground whole [grain]
* brown rice
* oats, oatmeal (including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal)
* wheatberries

MAYBE -- These words are accurate descriptions of the package contents, but because some parts of the grain MAY be missing, you are likely missing the benefits of whole grains.

* wheat flour
* semolina
* durum wheat
* organic flour
* multigrain (may describe several whole grains or several refined grains, or a mix of both)

NO -- These words never describe whole grains.

* enriched flour
* degerminated (on corn meal)
* bran
* wheat germ

Note that words like "wheat," "durum," and "multigrain" can (and do) appear on good whole grain foods, too. None of these words alone guarantees whether a product is whole grain or refined grain, so look for the word "whole" and follow the other advice here.

But don't just limit yourself to wheat products there's an entire world of whole grains out there that you should try!!

Rice (Oryza sativa)
(image from fat free vegan kitchen blog... check out the recipe for that dish!!)

White rice is refined, with the germ and bran removed. Whole-grain rice is usually brown – but, unknown to many, can also be black, purple, red or any of a variety of exotic hues. Around the world, rice thrives in warm, humid climates; almost all of the U.S. rice crop is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas.

Converted rice is parboiled before refining, a process which drives some of the B vitamins into the endosperm so that they are not lost when the bran is removed. As a result, converted rice is healthier than regular white rice, but still is lacking many nutrients found in brown rice. Brown rice is lower in fiber than most other whole grains, but rich in many nutrients.

Health bonus: Rice is one of the most easily-digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.
Wild Rice (Zizania spp.)

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice mean that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)(Image from NYTimes <-- click for recipes! I think you'll love this grain it's light and delicious!)
Quinoa (keen-wah) comes to us from the Andes, where it has long been cultivated by the Inca. Botanically a relative of swiss chard and beets rather than a “true” grain, quinoa cooks in about 10-12 minutes, creating a light, fluffy side dish. It can also be incorporated into soups, salads and baked goods. Commercially, quinoa is now appearing in cereal flakes and other processed foods. Though much of our quinoa is still imported from South America, farmers in high-altitude areas near the Rockies are also beginning to cultivate quinoa.

Quinoa is a small, light-colored round grain, similar in appearance to sesame seeds. But quinoa is also available in other colors, including red, purple and black. Most quinoa must be rinsed before cooking, to remove the bitter residue of saponins, a plant-defense that wards off insects. Botanists are now developing saponin-free strains of quinoa, to eliminate this minor annoyance to the enjoyment of quinoa.
Quinoa is the Grain of the Month in March. Learn more about quinoa.

Health bonus: The abundant protein in quinoa is complete protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can’t make on their own.

Oats (Avena sativa)

Ah oatmeal, remember when mom made you a bowl of piping hot oatmeal on a cold winter day... wasn't it the best!?? Time to rekindle that love!(image from Sherman Heart and Vascular Blog)
Oats have a sweet flavor that makes them a favorite for breakfast cereals. Unique among grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the label, relax: you're virtually guaranteed to be getting whole grain.

In the U.S., most oats are steamed and flattened to produce "old-fashioned" or regular oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. If you prefer a chewier, nuttier texture, consider steel-cut oats, also sometimes called Irish or Scottish oats. Steel-cut oats consist of the entire oat kernel (similar in look to a grain of rice), sliced once or twice into smaller pieces to help water penetrate and cook the grain. Cooked for about 20 minutes, steel-cut oats create a breakfast porridge that delights many people who didn't realize they love oatmeal!
Oats are the Grain of the Month in January. Click here for more information on oats.
Health bonus: Scientific studies have concluded that like barley, oats contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan found to be especially effective in lowering cholesterol. Recent research reports indicate that oats also have a unique antioxidant, avenanthramides, that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.

Bulgur (Triticum ssp.)

(image from fat free vegan kitchen go to their site for the recipe)
When wheat kernels are boiled, dried, cracked, then sorted by size, the result is bulgur. This wheat product is sometimes referred to as “Middle Eastern pasta” for its versatility as a base for all sorts of dishes. Bulgur is most often made from durum wheat, but in fact almost any wheat, hard or soft, red or white, can be made into bulgur.

Because bulgur has been precooked and dried, it needs to be boiled for only about 10 minutes to be ready to eat – about the same time as dry pasta. This makes bulgur an extremely nutritious fast food for quick side dishes, pilafs or salads. Perhaps bulgur’s best-known traditional use is in the minty grain and vegetable salad known as tabbouleh.

Health bonus: Bulgur has more fiber than quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat or corn. Its quick cooking time and mild flavor make it ideal for those new to whole grain cooking.
Read more about whole grains a to z on the whole grain council website! (The link is also added to my side bar for future use :))

I hope you ladies found this post informative, don't be afraid to introduce a new tasty grain to your dinner table!! Or start out small and switch out that white bread for some whole grain wheat bread... you'll be glad you did! There's so much more flavor (try whole grain bread french toast with the family for breakfast one morning... omg mouthwatering! and so much more filling.)

1 comment:

Dangrdafne said...

Ahhh it is so easy for me to not eat the wheat varieties of the products listed in this post BUT unfortunately, I believe the wheat free/gluten free varieties are even worse than the regular stuff. I seem to recall an article about how it is hard for people with celiacs to eat healthier carbs. Although I do believe I have seen new multi grain gluten/wheat free items starting to show up on the market. I lost a ton of weight when I was first off wheat/gluten but then I found the gluten free cookies, cakes, etc and then I was back up a bit. Some day I would love to have a personal chef and have them make what I should and can eat :)