Understanding Carbohydrates in the food you eat
October 9, 2017
How much and what type of carbohydrate foods are important for managing your diet, especially if you have diabetes?
There are three main types of carbohydrates in food you should be aware of: starches (also known as complex carbohydrates), sugars and fiber. On the nutrition label, the term “total carbohydrate” includes all three types of carbohydrates.
Foods high in starch include: - Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, lima beans and potatoes - Lentils, pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and split peas - Grains like oats, barley and rice. (The majority of grain products in the US are made from wheat flour. These include pasta, bread and crackers but the variety is expanding to include other grains as well.)
There are two main types of sugar:
- Naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit
- Added sugars during processing such as fruit canned in heavy syrup or sugar added to make a cookie
On the nutrition facts label, the number of sugar grams includes both added and natural sugars.
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. For good health, adults need to try to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Most Americans do not consume nearly enough fiber in their diet, so while it is wise to aim for this goal, any increase in fiber in your diet can be beneficial. Most of us only get about half of what is recommended. Fiber contributes to digestive health, helps to keep you regular, and helps to make you feel full and satisfied after eating. Additional health benefits, of a diet high in fiber — such as a reduction in cholesterol levels — have been suggested by some so may be an additional benefit.
In general, an excellent source of fiber contains five grams or more per serving, while a good source of fiber contains 2.5 - 4.9 grams per serving.
It is best to get your fiber from food rather than taking a supplement. In addition to the fiber, these foods have a wealth of nutrition, containing many important vitamins and minerals. In fact, they may contain nutrients that haven’t even been discovered yet!
It is also important that you increase your fiber intake gradually, to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids, to prevent constipation.
Source: American Diabetes Association
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