Health & Wellness: Have your carbs and eat them, too


Nicole Hutchison. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in the past few years with the popularity of low carb diet plans.

Initial weight loss with these diet plans might seem impressive, but as with any fad diet, weight loss ultimately will taper and plateau. There also are possible side effects to a sudden reduction in carbs, including insomnia, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, decreased endurance with exercise and muscle cramps.

With severe carb restriction, your body might break fat down into ketones for energy which is a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis can cause bad breath, headaches, fatigue and weakness. Restricting carbs in the long term also can result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies, gastrointestinal disturbances and more.

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy balanced diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support many bodily functions and physical activity.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45% to 65% of your total daily calories. For example, if you consume approximately 2,000 calories per day, between 900 and 1,300 should come from carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates contain four calories per one gram, this equals 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates each day.

What is more important to remember, though, is the quality of carbs consumed.

In general, the healthiest sources of carbohydrates — unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans — promote health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber and a host of important phytonutrients. These carbohydrates are “complex carbs” and contain longer chains of sugar molecules than simple carbohydrates. They take longer to break down and provide more lasting energy in the body than simple carbohydrates and also can reduce the risk of several chronic health conditions, such as Type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many cancers.

Less healthy sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas and other highly processed or refined foods.

Simple carbohydrates are made up of shorter chains of molecules and are quicker to digest than complex carbohydrates. They produce a spike in blood glucose, providing the body with a short-lasting source of energy and can contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss and promote diabetes and heart disease.

A healthful, balanced diet includes foods from five groups: Vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy. Eating at regular intervals through the day, fill your plate with primarily vegetables and fruits, some lean protein, some dairy and soluble fiber.

Whether your goals are weight loss, improved sports performance or everyday health and wellness and weight management, learning how to fuel your body safely and effectively will help you attain those goals.

Nicole Hutchison is the CEO and owner of Statera Integrated Health and Wellness Solutions in Dubuque.

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