Monday Medical: Ditch the donut, not the carbs | SteamboatToday.com

Monday Medical: Ditch the donut, not the carbs

Susan Cunningham For Steamboat Today

Monday Medical

If you're on a very low-carb diet, you may want to think again.

Carbohydrates, which are in foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables, are vital to a healthy life.

"If you don't eat carbs, your brain doesn't have the fuel it needs to function," said Laura Stout, a registered dietitian nutritionist with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. "Carbs are our primary source of energy. Meat doesn't provide that. Vegetables provide some, but probably not enough. We really need whole grains daily."

But that doesn't mean all carbs are created equally. To tease out the truth about carbs, check out Stout's guidelines below.

• Know your carbs: Most foods, except for meats, cheeses and fats, such as oils and avocados, contain carbohydrates. But some are much healthier than others.

Good carbs include whole grains such as brown rice, millet, quinoa and whole wheat bread and pasta, along with beans, vegetables and fruits. These foods are high in fiber and nutrients.

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• Rethink your plate: Stout recommends filling half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains and a quarter with protein. A salad or bowl of sautéed vegetables with a handful of quinoa and some lean chicken or fish can be a colorful, tasty meal. Or have a hamburger, but instead of the bun, choose veggies and a whole grain.

• Go for variety: "Quinoa, millet, farro – there are so many types of whole grains," Stout said. "Trying new grains beyond just whole wheat flour is a really good thing. These grains provide so many more vitamins and minerals that we don't get from meats and vegetables."

And don't be afraid to mix in dried fruits and nuts. "Oatmeal doesn't have to be just oats with brown sugar," Stout said. "If you add in nuts and berries, it gives so much flavor and great antioxidants."

• Avoid sugar and processed foods: Stout recommends avoiding candy, sweets, soda, juice, white rice and white flour, and overly processed foods that don't have fiber, all of which can cause blood sugar to spike and then plummet.

And, be sure to read labels. "Something as benign as a yogurt can have all this sugar added, and turn into something that has way too many carbs in it," Stout said.

• Don't forget the fiber: Eat good carbs and you'll also be getting fiber, which is found in vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits. Fiber is a powerful part of any diet. It helps lower cholesterol, protects the heart, aids in weight loss and promotes healthy bowel functioning. Additionally, fiber contains prebiotics, which are the food for naturally occurring probiotics in the gut.

• Skip the low-carb diets: Diets that stress minimal to no carbs can cause more harm than good. Though some may result in initial weight loss, pounds are often later gained back.

"In some of these diets, grains are considered part of a 'cheat day,'" Stout said. "Grains are simply not just for a 'cheat day.' They're an important part of a daily diet."

As with any changes to diet, Stout recommends working in a slow and sustainable way.

"These changes are hard, but reach out to health professionals in the community for help," Stout said. "Check out recipes on boxes of whole grain foods, and look for programs in the community that help support change. There are lots of opportunities to include more whole grains now."

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.

If you go

What: Real Food: Carbs and Fiber

When: Noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18

Where: Conference Rooms at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center

For more information: uchealth.org/yvmc

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