Carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules. We often call starchy and fibrous foods “carbs”, but carbohydrates are found in many different foods like fruit, dairy, beans, whole grain pasta, and candy.
Why do carbs get a bad rap? Carbs turn to a simple sugar such as glucose in your body, elevating your blood sugar levels. So what? Well, folks at risk for diabetes and heart disease care and those of us who like our bodies to burn fat at a normal rate.
So are carbs bad for you? The simple answer is no. But you have to understand that not all carbs are created equal. Let’s forget about simple vs. complex carbs, those classifications just have to do with the type of sugar molecule found in each carbohydrate-rich food — whether it’s a sugary treat or whole wheat pasta.
Fiber is Our Friend
What we really need to focus on is fiber. Fiber is our friend, because it keeps the body from rapidly converting all the carb-rich food immediately into glucose. Instead, fiber slows the absorption of the carbs and keeps blood sugar from spiking, so everything in your system is mellow and steady.
OK – now that we are friendly with fiber, here comes the bad news. There is no fiber in candy! Stick to items that are labeled “whole grain” or have “whole grain wheat” listed as the first item in the ingredient list.
So how much should you be getting? There are carbs in most foods you eat, but to keep it simple, let’s talk mainly about sweets, fruits, and grains.
For a pipsqueek like me, I should eat around 3 cups of grains (yes, that includes pasta and bread – and a huge bagel would almost cover that!), 1 1/2 cups of fruit, and skip the sweets to maintain my healthy weight along with my daily exercise routine.
The amount of carbs you should consume is different — based on your height, weight, age, activity level and whether or not you are trying to lose weight. Type in your personal facts on the USDA Food Pyramid to find out what the breakdown is for you!