Good Carbs and Dairy
A warm welcome back! Carbs take a lot of heat in the diet world, so let’s review. In today’s lesson, we’re discussing nutrient-dense “good” carbs as well as dairy as they relate to the plant-based diet.
When you think of carbs, you probably think of potatoes, pasta, and cake. And yes, those are carbs. Carbs, which are converted to energy, include sugar, starches, and fiber. Carbs are found in grains, starchy vegetables, beans, dairy, fruits, juices, and sweets. “Good” carbs are those that are high in fiber that has not been heavily refined. Fruit contains fiber and nutrients, giving it good carb status. Good carbs like whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, beans, and legumes are slower to digest because they contain more fiber and do not spike blood sugar.
The U.S. Diet Has a Carb Problem
“The U.S. population, across almost every age and sex group, consumes eating patterns that are low in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, seafood, and oil and high in refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and for some age-sex groups, high in the meats, poultry, and eggs subgroup,” says the U.S. government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In other words, we consume way too many nutrient-lacking carbs, leaving us vulnerable to disease.
It is important to choose carbs wisely, meaning the most nutrient-rich and the ones with the most fiber, because they aid in digestion and promote satiety as they are slow to digest and keep blood sugar level. These include not only fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like apples and broccoli, but whole grains like whole wheat breads, brown or wild rice or quinoa, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Get into the habit of foregoing the breadbasket in restaurants. Try the switch from original pasta to whole wheat pasta or plain rice to brown rice. (Hey, brown rice is nutty and delicious if you have not tried it.) Other substitutes for plain pasta include spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. And if you typically eat processed chips with your sandwich (on whole grain bread ;-) ) try some almonds and an apple as an accompaniment. Remember, we’re going for small substitutions and doable changes here.
What About Dairy?
Dairy is important because it supplies necessary calcium to the body. Calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages to nerves, and the release of hormones. If your diet does not supply enough calcium, your body will pull it from your bones, which can lead to bone loss later in life.
MyPlate.gov recommends three servings of low-fat dairy per day. Opt for low-fat dairy for the same reason you want to select low-fat animal protein, because high intake of animal fat increases risk of cardiovascular disease. Plain Greek yogurt is an excellent choice. Leafy greens, soybeans, sardines, and salmon are good non-dairy sources of calcium.
Tomorrow: let’s talk about sugar, sodium, processed foods, and refined carbs as well as the concept of moderation.
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