How many of you have heard about the story of two prisoners whose attitude towards things made their life better or miserable? If not, let me present it to you in a nutshell and this story is going to form the base for our attitude toward carbohydrates. There were two prisoners locked inside a cell which had a tiny window. One prisoner looked out of the window and was fulfilled with the sight of a wonderful night sky outside filled with stars. He called onto his cellmate and asked him to enjoy the same experience as himself. But alas, all that his mate could see were the prison bars. He could not look beyond them and enjoy the beauty that nature had to offer! You can either be a master or a prisoner of your attitude! Choose what you want to be! I feel most of us approach carbs the same way (seeing their disadvantages and not picking on their advantages) the second prisoner approached nature-seeing the bars instead of the stars.
Fiber: A Complex Carbohydrate
A fiber-rich diet has been on the list of every health professional, dietitian and nutritionist dispensing enriched suggestions to individuals. Fiber been associated with everything good-right from good health to avoiding chronic diseases. Even a study in the Lancet shows that people with a fiber-rich diet are at a 15-30% lower risk of death due to heart problems or any other problems comparatively. A diet rich in fiber also helps in controlling weight, reduce weight gain and high cholesterol and also avoid type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and coronary heart disease. But when I mentioned about carbs initially why are we suddenly talking about the benefits of fiber? Only because fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate. Sugar and starch are the other two types of carbs. I think by now most of you would have been able to find the analogy between the story of the prisoners and carbs-while we have been avoiding (or in fact cursing) carbs mostly during weight loss programs, talking only about the processed foods and baked goods rich in sugar and starch we have been missing out on the goodness of the fiber part!
The Necessary Evil?
Despite its bad rap, carbohydrates are inevitable for our health and dietary guidelines too suggest that carbs constitute of 45-65% of daily calorie needs. For example, if you take a 2000-calorie diet, 900-1,200 calories should constitute of carbs-healthy carbs. They occupy a prime role in your life supplying your body with energy, protecting it against diseases and also controlling weight. But what type of carb you eat defines your health. People have blindly been following different low-carb diets such as the Keto or Atkins diet that might help in weight loss but neither do you sustain the loss nor does it help you stay healthy in the long run. Most low-carb diets avoid including whole grains and also restrict the intake of fiber-laden fruits and veggies.
Fiber-rich Carb Intake
Bread, pastry and other processed foods are all carbs but any sane person would realize that eating them is not going to do your body any good. Natural sources of carbs include fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, milk, nuts and seeds which are all healthy and some of them are remarkable sources of fiber. Focus on consuming your carbs in the form of fiber for the benefit of your body. A latest research backed by WHO on the recommended daily amounts of fiber shows that consuming between 25 and 29 grams of fiber a day is sufficient. The study found that for every 8 grams of increased fiber intake the risk of death from coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer reduced by 5-25%. When the fiber intake increased by 15 grams, rate of death, colorectal cancer and heart disease risk reduced by 2-19%.
While it is not healthy to follow a low-carb diet if you have been doing so increase your fiber intake by choosing plant-based foods that contain high fiber. If you have been following a Mediterranean diet plan kudos to you as this kind of a plan focuses on including plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, grains and seeds in abundant quantities. Get yourself a personalized diet plan that has all the macronutrients perfectly planned suiting your body type with the help of dietitians and nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com.
For anyone whose diet is low in fiber, add them gradually to your diet as suddenly overpowering your food with fiber can lead to constipation, diarrhea or gas. Give your body sufficient time to adopt to the changes. Introduce a piece of fruit for breakfast, one portion of fruit and one portion of veggie for lunch and so on. Ensure to drink plenty of fluids in between to help the fiber move through the body. Brown rice, instant oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, raspberries, green peas, chia seeds, black beans and split peas are all great sources of fiber apart from your regular carrots, beans, apples, melons, kiwis, etc. Potatoes are the only exception as they promote weight gain. You needn’t refrain from eating potatoes but minimize their consumption.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.