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Health Articles
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
(published in Humana Active Outlook)
By Heather Larson

 

When you eat carbs like sugar or those in refined foods, you get a sharp spike in your blood sugar levels. That's not healthy. To keep your blood sugar levels even, you should eat better carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

"You should eat the better, healthier carbs most of the time," says Maggie Green, RD, LD, Humana Active Outlook Medical Advisory Board member.

The best time to select those carbs is while shopping for food. Then, you'll have the best choices on hand at home. Maggie offers some ideas on what to buy. In the produce department, almost every vegetable ranks as a high-value carb. Pick the brightest colored vegetables for their helpful antioxidants. Choose broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and leafy greens instead of just potatoes. Select plain yogurt, unsweetened cream cheese, and skim or nonfat milk in the dairy section. Don't avoid the middle aisles because that's where you'll find whole grains, dry beans, and legumes. They contain better carbs plus fiber, which helps fight heart disease and diabetes. Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole-wheat couscous are good choices instead of traditional pasta, white rice, or potatoes.

Look for a whole grain as the first ingredient in the cereal you choose. It should also have five or more grams of fiber and less than five grams of sugar. Unsweetened oatmeal is a good choice. Add fresh berries or chopped fresh fruit to sweeten.

Skip the refined carbs found in candy, cookies, doughnuts, cakes, other baked goods, and flavored coffee drinks. Eating foods high in sugar can make you drowsy, sluggish, and low on energy.

"Eating three well-balanced meals and a couple of snacks each day, and staying away from refined carbs is the best solution," says Maggie.

A diet high in refined carbs and/or alcohol creates that risky belly fat. It also makes sharp highs and drops in blood sugar levels. That makes it harder to lose weight. Pay attention to the carbs you put into your shopping cart and then into your body. If you don't have diabetes or heart disease, eating the healthier carbs helps to prevent these diseases.

Carbohydrates keep our bodies going. After eating carbohydrates, or "carbs," the body changes them into blood sugar or glucose. This is our main source of energy.

More Tips from Maggie Green
Some supermarkets are hiring dietitians to give tours of stores and talk about the best choices. Take advantage of this if it is offered in your area.

Hints for dining out:

  • Choose apples at fast-food restaurants instead of fries
  • Have oatmeal instead of fried bacon and eggs
  • Order brown rice instead of white rice or potatoes
  • Drink unsweetened iced tea or water instead of soda
  • Plan ahead to stop at places you know have healthier options

 

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