Wellness Wednesday – 8/25/21
When it comes to eating healthy, most people think the goal is avoiding carbs and fats. Trendy diets and deep-fried fast-food highlight the bad reputation of these nutrients, often so much that their benefits are overshadowed. Guess what? A healthy diet can, and does, include both carbs and fats; it’s all about eating mindfully. So, let’s discuss the benefits of these macronutrients, how to consume them healthily, and my favorite food: pasta.
It’s important to note that while carbs and fats are a part of a healthy diet, there are many folks who may have different eating needs and are avoiding carbs or fats for particular reasons. If you are working on a low-carb diet or anything of the sort with a heath professional, don’t worry, every person on this earth is partaking on their own unique wellness journey. When discussing the benefits of carbs and fats, we’ll be relating them general diets and eating habits.
According to Science
Here’s a bad analogy for you: Humans are like cars. We need good fuel to survive and last. And, there are some types of fuel that are better for us than others. Carbohydrates and fats — or lipids — provide just that: they are both important sources of energy, or fuel, for our bodies.
In short, carbohydrates, which include fibers, sugars and starches, are macronutrients that the digestive system breaks down into glucose, which is then absorbed by your bloodstream and used for energy. There are two types of carbs: simple carbs which your body breaks down quickly causing a quick spike in blood sugar, and complex carbs, which are broken down slowly and contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. Click here to learn more about the difference between simple and complex carbs.
Fats are also macronutrients that, when consumed moderately, provide a good source of energy, protects your skeleton, and helps the body absorb other nutrients. Similar to carbohydrates, there are two main types of fats and one is healthier than the other: saturated fats, which can eventually contribute to high cholesterol, and unsaturated fats, which are considered “good fats” and are even linked to reducing heart disease. Visit here for more details on fats and the role they play in keeping our bodies healthy and energized.
What to Eat
Okay, just because I said that carbs are healthy doesn’t mean that you should load up on French fries before heading to the gym. As noted before, there are simple and complex carbs. Simple carbs, which typically include a ton of added sugar, should be avoided. Specifically, things like soda, baked treats (sorry, Hostess) fried food, fruit juices and breakfast cereals should be avoided. (Personally, I like to check the label. I always try to purchase items with the lowest amount of “added sugars.” For more on sugar, check out a previous Wellness Wednesday article here.)
Thankfully, there are many different healthy carbs that you can substitute these with. This list includes 12 high-carb foods that are high in nutrients: quinoa (great on salads,) oats, bananas, sweet potatoes (an awesome substitute for regular fries,) oranges, blueberries, apples, chickpeas, kidney beans and more. This list also adds pumpkin, prunes, tart cherries, buckwheat, beets, yuca, yogurt and carrots to the carb-filled family.
For healthy sources of fat, Healthline lists avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, fish, eggs, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, and full-fat yogurt. Meat is typically listed as an unhealthy source of fat, however, it is such a staple in many of our diets that it is difficult to cut out completely. The first thing to do is try making fish — which is highly nutritious — your meat source at least once a week. Next, check out this article, which details the healthiest cuts of red meat, chicken, and pork. For further reading, this slideshow outlines the health benefits of specific types of meat, including unique ones like lamb, bison and goat.
Pasta to the Rescue
I simply could not talk about carbs without bringing up my favorite food, pasta. A universal food that can contribute to a variety of dishes and can be cooked many different ways, some worry that pasta is not healthy because it is, well, a carb. Not so fast. I came across this article that may change your mind. According to U.S. News, pasta is “an easily digestible carbohydrate that can help ensure that carbohydrate stores (glycogen) is optimized in both the muscles and liver so one can compete and not feel depleted.” Furthermore, pasta is easily accessible and affordable, provides an additional source of protein (plant-based pasta specifically) and is easy to prepare.
If you’re looking to make your pasta a little more healthy, you can make the switch to whole grain pasta or plant-based pasta which is high in protein (and tastes the same), which can all be found at your local grocery store for an affordable price. For easy healthy meal to prepare when I’m in a pinch, I mix Barilla’s “Protein+” pasta with steamed broccoli, extra virgin olive oil and some parmesan cheese. Interested in more pasta alternatives? Here are 40 pasta recipes “for a veggie packed boost.” That should keep you busy, energized and full!
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Brain Power. A recent study found that mice willfully manipulate spontaneous doses of dopamine, the brain’s “feel good chemical.” Visit here to learn about what this may imply for humans.
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