Carbohydrates – Part II

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

How many carbohydrates does a person need in a day?

Instead of counting carbohydrates, dietitians now recommend planning meals using the “Healthy Plate.” At each meal, half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables and a quarter of the plate should be filled with whole grains. (Dietitians do not count potatoes or French fries as vegetables.) The last quarter of the plate should be protein – meat, fish, beans or nuts.

Why are whole grains important?

Whole grains are the best source of carbohydrates because they provide energy plus vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating whole grains as often as possible instead of highly refined grains, like white flour and white rice, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and keep the digestive system healthy. Foods made from whole grains have high fiber content.

Why is fiber important?

Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans) and whole grains. Fiber promotes a healthy digestive system by keeping the bowels moving. It also can help prevent obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes by slowing down digestion and keeping you full longer.

Fiber can be soluble (dissolves in water) or insoluble (does not dissolve in water).

Soluble fiber can be found in most fruits; some vegetables, including corn, peas and carrots; oatmeal and oat bran; nuts, seeds and dry beans. When mixed with water during digestion, this type of fiber becomes a thick, gelatin material. Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol (related to heart disease risk) and blood glucose (related to risk for diabetes).

Insoluble fiber is also found in a variety of foods, especially foods made with whole wheat flour, wheat bran, brown rice, whole grain cereals, couscous, most vegetables, and fruits. Insoluble fiber helps the body move waste through the digestive system. It also may help prevent small blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.

Both kinds of fiber are important. Adult women should try to eat at least 20 grams of fiber a day. Men should try to eat 30 grams a day. The easiest way to include fiber in the diet is to eat a variety of foods that include raw, whole fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grain breads, pastas and cereals.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: Name the food rich in fibers in your diet.

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