Over the past few years, popular diets have given carbohydrates a bad name. Actually, carbohydrates are an important component of good health. Here are some basics about carbohydrates. You may be surprised at how beneficial carbs and grain-based foods like bread really are.
A few good reasons why bread is good for you:
- Carbohydrates are the body's first choice of energy to fuel physical activity, as well as to fuel the brain and the nervous system. Bread is rich in complex carbohydrates and is a great source of energy. After digestion, carbohydrates appear in the circulatory system as a sugar on its way to the cells where it is used for energy.
- There are three different kinds of carbohydrates - starch, sugar, and fiber. During digestion, the body breaks down starch into sugar. We get four calories from each gram of starch or sugar we eat. Fiber, on the other hand, does not produce any calories because fiber does not break down during digestion.
- Grains, such as bread, fill you up--not out--because gram for gram, carbohydrates contain less than half the calories found in fat. This is because grains contain fiber - something meats and dairy products don't have. Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be digested, which is why fiber is known for promoting satiety or a full feeling. Fiber appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and diverticular disease.
- There is excellent evidence from lifestyle intervention studies that overweight individuals who become active, reduce their fat intake and include complex carbohydrates in their diet can significantly reduce their weight over several years.
- Claims that high-protein diets are the answer to fitness and weight loss are just that--claims. Leading dietitians agree that the best way to lose weight and stay healthy is to decrease calorie intake while increasing calorie expenditure. Although we need protein to build muscle, too much of a good thing may cause health problems--and national surveys show virtually all Americans get plenty of protein. On the flip side, consumption data shows Americans aren't eating even the minimum recommended daily servings of bread and other grains, foods perfect for fueling active bodies.
- No published studies have shown that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are safe and effective. In fact, just the opposite may be true. Many of the high-protein foods included in this type of diet, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, are high in saturated fat and low in vitamins and minerals, which may increase the risk for heart disease and colon cancer. Very high protein diets may also increase the risk for osteoporosis in women because the body takes calcium from the bones to neutralize acids that build up in the blood from digesting large amounts of protein. Most medical experts and nutritionists recommend that protein intake be kept at moderate amounts and that carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, make up a large part of the diet.
The food and nutrition information found in our Nutrition Center is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or substitute for consulting a licensed health professional.