Monday, March 2, 2009

What's a Carb, Anyway? by Nell Stephenson

According to Webster's dictionary, a carbohydrate (one of the three macronutrients) is any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (such as sugars, starches, and celluloses).
Most people know that a carb is a type of food, and that people who are trying to lose weight may think of a carb as a bad thing to be avoided! I've had a client comment to me that they couldn't believe I don't eat any carbs. I responded, "I eat LOTS of carbs - did you notice all the fruit and veg I eat?" with incredulity. The reply was, "Those are carbs? I thought carbs were bread, pasta and rice!"
It occurred to me that many others share the same impression of what a "carb" is and whether it should even be eaten!
To clarify this, bread, pasta and rice are indeed carbs, but so are fruits and vegetables. The difference is that the latter are more natural, unprocessed and much more nutritionally desirable than the first group of starchy, processed carbs. There is a time and place to eat starchy carbs, though, such as around a workout! Even then, the premium quality of starch supplied to the body via yams or bananas, (or potatoes, for high performance athletes with a heavy training volume) is FAR superior to that of a bagel or pasta. Leafy green veggies, fresh fruits and most other produce are largely carbohydrate, and some have small amounts of protein or fat. There are exceptions, like the avocado, which have a higher fat content. This, however, is a healthy fat that is a great part of a sound Paleo Diet. Overall, most of the composition of many fruits and veggies is largely carbohydrate, and it's clear that carbohydrates are, in fact, an integral part of your healthy eating plan!

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