The truth about carbs

Carbs. What an evil word! How many times have you caught yourself looking on the back of a package to see how many carbohydrates are in each serving? Look no longer, because the truth about carbs is they are not as harmful as you think.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is published every five years. These guidelines are used to inform Americans about the new diets and the scientific evidence of whether they have nutritional worth. The 2005 edition of the guidelines came out earlier this month, with information shocking to the Atkins addicts.

“Carbohydrates are part of a healthful diet. It is important to choose carbohydrates wisely. Foods that are in the basic food groups provide carbohydrates — fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk — these are important sources of many nutrients. Choosing plenty of these foods, within the context of a calorie-controlled diet, can promote health and reduce chronic disease risk,” reports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Susan Haley, a registered dietitian at University Community Hospital, said that the Atkins diet is not a new diet; it has been around since 1970. The Atkins fad comes and goes.

“Atkins has been around almost 40 years, and we’re still overweight,” Haley said. “It’s not the magic weight loss. We always go by evidence-based guidelines. Anything we recommend is based on evidence. There is no evidence in the Atkins Diet.”

Haley said that there has been short-term research on low-carb diets, but no improvement has been shown.

The Atkins diet claims that 20 grams of carbs a day is healthy. But Haley says otherwise.

“At least 40 percent of calories come from carbs,”she said. “Your brain and nervous system require glucose for fuel. 150 grams of carbs is needed per day for most people to get an adequate amount of carbs for energy and for the brain, although every individual is unique. The amount may vary according to the individual, this is just a common number.”

Since the Atkins “craze,” there have been many products available that are higher in price but lower in carbs. But have you noticed many packages listing complex and simple carbs? What is the difference?

“There are two types of carbs –simple and complex. What the difference is, is the length of the chains. The simple carb chains are shorter,” Haley said.

All of the chains are broken down into glucose. Simple carbs are just shorter chains, so they are broken down more rapidly.

“The complex carbs gives more of a steady release and it’s a little bit better for your body,” Haley said.

Milk and fruit have simple carbs. Atkins isn’t a big fan of fruit because of this, but Haley claims fruit and milk are essential to a healthy diet.

“It doesn’t mean they are bad foods. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans underscore that the nutrient intake needs to be based on the calorie requirements. Just because milk and fruit have simple carbs, it doesn’t mean they are bad foods. The nutrient intake needs to be based on the calorie requirements. That is how people are going to maintain a healthy weight,” Haley said.