Here a Carb There a Carb

Yes that's celery. And yes celery is a carbohydrate. Amount Per 1 stalk, medium (7-1/2" - 8" long) (40 g)

Carbohydrates are sugars that come in 2 main forms - simple and complex. This is also referred to as simple sugars and starches. The difference between a simple and complex carb is in how quickly it is digested and absorbed - as well as it's chemical structure.

Carbohydrates are a major macronutrient and one of your body’s primary sources of energy. Still, there is a constant weight loss buzz that discourages eating them. The key is finding the right carbs — not avoiding them altogether.

Understanding Carbohydrates

What’s In A Carb?

  • Carbs are made up of fiber, starch, and sugars.

  • The American Diabetes Association recommends getting 25-35 grams of fiber per day.

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient found in numerous types of foods. Most of us equate carbs with bread and pasta, but you can also find them in:

  • dairy products

  • fruits

  • vegetables

  • grains

  • nuts

  • legumes

  • seeds

  • sugary foods and sweets

Carbohydrates are made up of three components: fiber, starch, and sugar. Fiber and starch are complex carbs, while sugar is a simple carb. Depending on how much of each of these is found in a food determines its nutrient quality.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are sugars. While some of these occur naturally in milk, most of the simple carbs in the American diet are added to foods. Common simple carbs added to foods include:

  • raw sugar

  • brown sugar

  • corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup

  • glucose, fructose, and sucrose

  • fruit juice concentrate

Simple Carb Foods to Avoid

Try to avoid some of the most common refined sources of simple carbs and look for alternatives to satisfy those sweet cravings:

1. Soda

2. Baked treats

3. Packaged goods

4. Fruit juices from concentrate

5. Breakfast cereals

The More Complex, the Better

Complex carbs pack in more nutrients than simple carbs, because they are higher in fiber and digest more slowly. This also makes them more filling, which means they’re a good option for weight control. They are also ideal for people with type 2 diabetes because they help manage post-meal blood sugar spikes.

Fiber and starch are the two types of complex carbohydrates. Fiber is especially important because it promotes bowel regularity and helps to control cholesterol. The main sources of dietary fiber include:

  • fruits

  • vegetables

  • nuts

  • beans

  • whole grains

Starch is also found in some of the same foods as fiber. The difference is certain foods are considered more starchy than fibrous, such as potatoes. Other high-starch foods are:

  • whole wheat bread

  • cereal

  • corn

  • oats

  • peas

  • rice

Complex carbohydrates are key to long-term health. They make it easier to maintain your weight, and can even help guard against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems in the future.

Be sure to include the following complex carbohydrates as a regular part of your diet:

1. Grains:

Grains are good sources of fiber, as well as potassium, magnesium, and selenium. Choose less processed, whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and whole-wheat pasta.

2. Fiber-Rich Fruits:

Such as apples, berries, and bananas (avoid canned fruit, as they usually contain added syrup).

3. Fiber-Rich Vegetables:

Eat more of all your veggies, including broccoli, leafy greens, and carrots.

4. Beans:

Aside from fiber, these are good sources of folate, iron, and potassium.

Choosing the right carbs can take time and practice. With a little bit of research and a keen eye for nutrition labels, you can start making healthier choices that will energize your body and protect it from long-term complications.

The Glycemic Index

  • The glycemic index is a tool that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how quickly they raise your blood sugar. Although originally devised to help diabetics choose the best foods for healthy blood-sugar levels, the glycemic index can also guide carb-conscious dieters in choosing so-called “slow” carbs – those foods that will help you avoid sudden drops in energy that may leave you craving sugary, nutrient-poor foods.

Glycemic Index Basics

Foods deemed low-glycemic foods, or low GI, rate a score of 55 or lower on the scale. Those foods with a GI number of 56 to 69 are considered medium-glycemic foods, while those 70 and over are deemed high-glycemic foods. Low-glycemic foods tend to be higher in fiber and lower in calories – and include more whole foods than processed – and can help keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Protein foods like meat and fish contain no carbs, so they don’t have a GI rating.

Low-Glycemic Vegetables

All non-starchy vegetables are low on the glycemic index. Among these are asparagus, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, kale and other greens, as well as lettuce, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and zucchini, and each have a GI rating of 20 or less; the serving size is 1 cup, cooked or raw. Butternut squash, carrots, corn on the cob, green peas, parsnips, sweet potatoes and yams also have a low GI rank, but you'll need to eat a smaller serving. Stick with a half-cup serving of these or have a medium potato or yam.

Low-Glycemic Fruits

Many fresh fruits make the low GI cut, especially apples, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, mango, and kiwi. Serving sizes vary, but have one medium-sized fruit to be on the safe side. For grapes, portion out a cup, and for cherries, serve yourself 20 cherries. Some dried fruits are also considered low-glycemic, including apricots, dates and prunes; have five or six of these to make up your serving. Unsweetened apple, orange, tomato and pineapple juice are low on the scale, too, although they're not as low as the whole fruits they come from. A serving of juice is a cup.

Low-Glycemic Grains

Grains and the food products made from them tend to be higher on the GI scale, but some do fall at the lower end. A cup of cooked barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur or quinoa is low glycemic, as are corn and wheat tortillas. Unsweetened multigrain, oat bran, coarse barley, sourdough and stone-ground whole wheat breads are low GI, but stick to a single slice. Among breakfast cereals, go with a cup of low GI oatmeal. In the pasta category, opt for varieties like vermicelli, fettuccine, macaroni or spaghetti, but keep your portion size to one cooked cup.

Low-Glycemic Legumes and Nuts

Most beans will be your low-glycemic friends. Select a half cup of baked beans, black-eyed peas, black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, kidney beans, lentils, and soybeans; they are all 40 or under on the GI scale. A cup of soy milk is also low GI. For nuts, choose an ounce of cashews or peanuts.

Low-Glycemic Dairy

When you’re looking for low-glycemic dairy foods, opt for a cup of plain, low-fat yogurt. A cup of milk falls into the low GI category, too. Some kinds of premium, full-fat ice cream are low-GI, but the more sugar or sugary add-ins ice cream contains, the more likely its GI is higher. Ice cream isn't a healthful food anyway, so is best eaten as an occasional treat.

Tips for Low-Glycemic Eating

You are better off choosing whole foods more often than processed food products, if you want to follow a low-glycemic diet. Whole foods are those in the least-refined state possible, such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, legumes and seeds. Limit “white” foods such as white rice, white potatoes and white pasta to small, occasional portions, and swap them for brown rice, sweet potatoes and whole-grain pasta more often. Eat a lean protein such as chicken, fish or beans at each meal, and incorporate healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados into your diet. Remember to watch your portions, too.

Partial list

Other Low-Carb Veggies

  • Radish

  • Asparagus

  • Bok choy

  • Broccoli

  • Spinach

  • Arugula

  • Bell pepper

  • Watercress

Other Low-Carb Fruits

  • Rhubarb

  • Watermelon

  • Peaches

  • Star fruit

  • Cantaloupe

  • Strawberries

  • Blackberries

Talk to your doctor about the glycemic index, especially if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

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