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Mom's Pick: Carbs

Our food is made up of three groups of nutrients: proteins, fat and carbohydrates.  Our bodies need proteins and fat as they are both essential for life.  Carbs however are not.  Yes, the body does use carbohydrates for energy but they are not necessary for cell development.  This is why low carb diets were all the rage.   You could cut out carbs from your diet and not cause any real harm.  As it happens, though, nothing says that carbs are bad for you.  If eaten in relationship to what your body needs, carbs are just fine.  Runners eat a plate of pasta before a marathon because they know they are going to expel a lot of energy over a short period of time.  The problem is that many of us eat too many carbs for our sedentary lifestyle. The second problem with carbs is that we’ve lost our sense of portion size.  A plate of pasta and sauce served to us in a restaurant can feed four people – not one person.  A normal serving of polenta, rice, pasta, oatmeal or bread is about the size of the palm of your hand and no more.  

There are two kinds of carbohydrates: complex carbs are found in whole foods while simple carbs like sugar are not.  Sugar is not our friend.  Sugar raises blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol leading to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  Sugar makes us fat. Normal portions of complex carbs do not.  Your best choices of good carbs are those found in real foods like whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour and brown rice.  White flour and white rice have been stripped of vitamins and fiber and are therefore not a good choice.

The best bread for your family is baked in your oven or in the oven of your neighborhood baker.  It will get stale faster than store bought bread (if there’s anything left besides crumbs) because bread found on the supermarket shelves may include trans fats for longer shelf life.  Store-bought whole grain bread is seldom 100% whole grain and when it is you may be surprised at how much added sugar you can find in the ingredient list.

Other pitfalls in this category include boxed cereal and packaged bakery items.  A popular box of “simply nutritious, multi-bran” cereal lists sugar as the second ingredient. A package of “whole grain” cinnamon raisin English muffins contain the following in the long, long list of ingredients: sugar, corn syrup (sugar), high fructose corn syrup (sugar), hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat) and honey!  The best breads and cereals to choose from and incorporate into your well balanced meal plan are made from whole grains and are prepared in your kitchen.  Check out my recipe for Blueberry Pie Muffins to see how easy a wonderful treat can be for your family.

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