Carbs are an important energy source in our diets, but can having too many be bad for our health? It depends on the type. “In general, carbohydrates get a very bad reputation,” Dr. Nuha El Sayed, a staff physician at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, told Fox News. “Carbohydrates are not all the same, and they’re not all bad.” And eating too many carbs won’t, for instance, lead to diabetes, she said.
Lauri Wright, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Fox News that generally speaking, about half of your daily calories ought to come from carbohydrates. Still, she noted, too many simple carbs — like sugars and sweets — can actually act as an inflammatory agent, causing damage to the linings of the arteries and affecting our heart health.
But given that carbs are an essential nutrient (they give us energy, after all), how can we incorporate them healthfully into our diet? Fox News spoke to Wright and El Sayed for their tips:
1. Reach for whole grains.
“All carbs are not created equally,” Wright said. Reach for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice, she said, which are packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Avoid simple sugars.
Try to cut back on simple sugars like sodas, candies, and white breads, which often lack important nutrients and antioxidants that you can find in whole grains and fruits, Wright said. For example, try a whole grain cereal with berries for breakfast, rather than coffee and a donut, she suggested.
3. Watch the portions.
Carbohydrates pack a lot of energy, so always watch your portions, Wright said. That means one cup of pasta versus a whole plate full, or sticking to one breadstick rather than three or four, she said.
4. Be careful about what you add to your carbs.
Also be careful about the sauces and spreads you add to your carbs, which could pack a lot of calories, Wright said. For a bagel, try a tablespoon of peanut butter versus a whole smear of cream cheese, or for pasta, go for marinara sauce rather than Alfredo sauce, Wright recommended.
5. Focus on fiber.
If you eat more fiber-rich carbohydrates, like fruits and vegetables, you’ll feel full faster and avoid the surge in blood sugar that you get from simpler carbohydrates, El Sayed said.
6. Above all, strive for a balanced diet.
“In the end, it’s all about a balanced diet,” El Sayed said. “It’s not about limiting one food or another. Because when you go for a balanced diet, you’re unlikely to overdo it on one particular macronutrient or another.”