Tag Archives: quinoa

Are Carbs The Enemy?

Of all the major nutrients, carbohydrates have gotten a pretty bad rap. Personally, I don’t think it’s justified.

Carbohydrates are the core energy source for our body and brain and can be converted into amino acids to serve as the building blocks for protein. Certain sources of carbs are also chock-full of nutritious vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Grains, milk, beans, fruit and starchy vegetables, like potatoes and corn, all contribute to our daily carbohydrate intake. In fact, the U.S. government suggests we consume 45-65% of our daily calories from this nutrient group. So why the notoriety?

Not all carbs are created equal. There’s a big difference (nutritionally-speaking) between “refined” and “complex” carbohydrates. Refined carbs include chips, cake, candy, cereal, sweetened beverages (e.g., juice, lemonade, soda) and bread and pasta made with white flour. These foods are literally stripped of nutrients during processing. Due to their lack of fiber, they don’t fill us up and are digested quickly, causing our blood sugar to spike. Refined carbs contain few vitamins and minerals and likely end up replacing healthier foods in our diet. Eating too many of these foods can also lead to high triglyceride levels.

On the other hand, many complex carbohydrates are packed with nutrients. Examples include brown and wild rice, whole wheat pasta and bread, oatmeal, quinoa, bulgur and barley. Such whole grains are naturally low in fat and added sugars and supply iron, folate, zinc, magnesium, B-vitamins and fiber – a nutritional powerhouse. Fiber cannot be digested by the human body and therefore, this complex carb passes through our system without adding calories! Fiber can help lower cholesterol, regulate bowel function, reduce spikes in blood sugar, protect against colon cancer and help us lose weight by warding off hunger! The fiber in whole fruit is what makes it a much better choice than juice, which is high in sugar and calories and not a dieter’s friend.

When it comes to weight loss, the low-carb Atkins diet certainly gets a lot of press. However, weight loss occurs when you consume fewer total calories than your body needs, whether you’re cutting back on fat, protein or carbs. A sustainable strategy for weight loss should reduce calories from all nutrient groups, so that you do not feel deprived. Reduce your intake of sugary beverages, desserts and foods made with refined flour, like white bread and pasta and be sure to include nutrient-dense and fiber-packed sources of complex carbs in your meal plan!

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Filed under Dairy, Food Groups, Fruits and Vegetables, Grains, Heart Healthy Choices, Weight loss

Helpful hints when choosing your foods

My previous post on understanding the food pyramid provided guidelines on how many servings from each food group should be consumed per day.  Use that information, along with the tips below to make your diet as nutritious as possible.

Food Group Helpful Hints!
Grains

 

-Make half your daily grain choices whole grains.-Good sources: whole grain or whole wheat bread or pasta, oats, rye, barley, couscous

-Poor sources: enriched wheat flour (e.g. white bread), cookies, cakes, doughnuts

-When preparing mixed dishes, such as soups or stews, include whole grains such as barley or quinoa. Use whole grain bread crumbs in meatloaf and use whole wheat flour for up to half of the flour used in pancake, waffle and muffin recipes.


 

Fruit
-While 100% fruit juice counts towards daily fruit intake, try and limit consumption to less than ¾ cup per day (1.5 servings). Juice lacks the fiber that whole fruits provide.
-When selecting canned items, be sure the fruit is canned in 100% fruit juice or water, rather than syrup
 
Vegetables

-While french fries technically count as a veggie, it’s important to mix it up! Be sure to also eat dark green and orange veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and squash.
Dairy

-Milk choices, including fluid milk, cottage cheese and yogurt, should be fat-free or low-fat.
-Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, including cream cheese, cream and butter are not included in this group. Instead, they appear under “oils,” because of their fat content.


 

Meats, poultry, fish, nuts
-Choose lean or low-fat cuts and remember that preparation method matters! Baking or grilling a cutlet is a lot healthier than deep-frying it!-Wondering how many nuts make up ½ oz? It’s 12 almonds, 24 pistachios or 7 walnut halves.

-Good sources: beans, tofu, fish, chicken without skin, eggs, lean meat, peanut butter, seeds

-Poor sources: baked beans, fried eggs, sausages, spare ribs

-Eat fish at least twice a week and select fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.

-Organ meats, including liver, as well as egg yolks are high in cholesterol, but egg whites are cholesterol-free!

-Processed meats, such as ham, sausage, hot dogs and deli meats are high in sodium, so limit your intake.


 

Oils -It’s best to steer clear of solid fats, like butter and lard, because solid fats are high in trans fat and saturated fat, which increase your risk for heart disease. Instead, use liquid fats, such as canola, corn and olive oils. (Note: coconut and palm kernel are the two oils high in saturated fat and should be used sparingly.)

-When choosing margarine to purchase, look for one with zero grams trans fat.


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Whole vs. Refined Grains

Q: Why are whole grains healthier than refined grains?

A: The wheat kernel contains four main components: the germ – rich in oils, vitamins and minerals, the starchy endosperm, the nutrient- and fiber- packed bran coating and the inedible husk. A “whole grain” refers to a grain milled in its entirety, except for the husk. Examples of nutritious whole grains include amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgar, corn, millet, quinoa, brown rice, oats and whole wheat. Refining grains removes the coarse parts of the kernel, which leaves only the starchy endosperm and causes the loss of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  All refined products (e.g. white bread, white pasta) are required to be enriched with iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate to combat deficiencies in these nutrients. Unfortunately, even enriched products remain nutritionally inferior to whole grains. For example, a slice of enriched white bread contains only 18% of the amount of vitamin B-6 that a slice of whole grain bread contains, and only a quarter of the amount magnesium and fiber.

The bottom line? Whole grains are much more nutrient dense than refined grains. When at the grocery store, do not judge by color alone! Look for products, such as breads, pastas, cereals and crackers, which contain “100% whole grains” or the word “whole” in front of the grain name on the ingredient list. For example, the ingredient label on a box of Cheerios tells us that the product is made from “whole grain oats.” Be cautious – “wheat bread” or “multi-grain crackers” may list  “unbleached enriched wheat flour” first on the ingredient list, which means it’s not made with healthy whole grains!

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