Healthy Carbohydrates - Brown Carbs vs. White
carbohydrates are considered whole grains or foods in their natural
state while white carbohydrates are often refined grains. Adding
more whole grains to our diets and reducing the refined carbs may
lead to longer healthier lives.
A whole grain has the entire kernel still intact. The kernel consists
of the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran or outer shell protects
the seed. It provides fiber, B vitamins and trace minerals. The
germ's function is to provide nourishment to the seed, if it were
to sprout, thus providing antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin E.
The germ can go rancid in whole grain products and lessen the shelf
life if not refrigerated. A refined grain has been processed so
that only the endosperm remains, providing energy from carbohydrates
Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease
and certain cancers. The fiber, vitamins and minerals all have well
known attributes. Additional benefits from whole grains are antioxidants,
lignans, phenolic acids, phytoestrogens, and other phytochemicals.
The entire package of nutrients makes adding whole grains to our
diet an important step towards good health.
Whole grains are beneficial towards the control of Diabetes because
they are more slowly absorbed into the body than refined grains.
This leads to better blood sugar control by having the equivalent
of a slow drip of carbohydrate into the bloodstream rather than
a sudden rush. With a rush of refined sugars, blood glucose levels
can become high very quickly which is dangerous to a diabetic. Slowing
down carbohydrate absorption is beneficial for all of us because
it puts less stress on the pancreas to secrete insulin. In theory
this should lower the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a
condition where the pancreas fails to secrete enough insulin or
a person's insulin loses its effectiveness.
Although fiber has no nutritional value it offers very important
health benefits. Fiber passes through our systems undigested and
is classified as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber in whole grains
dissolves in water and forms a gel in our digestive tracts adding
bulk which prolongs stomach emptying time so sugars are released
and absorbed more slowly. Soluble fiber in oatmeal has been shown
to reduce cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber adds bulk speeding
up transit time in the intestines. Insoluble fiber is important
to maintaining a healthy pH in the digestive tract. Whole grains
fill you up easier and may lead to an overall reduced amount of
Whole grain products can be identified by the ingredient list.
Typically if the ingredient lists"whole wheat" or "whole
corn" as the first ingredient, the product is a whole grain
food item. Another way to identify whole grains in the foods we
eat is to read the nutritional facts information and examine the
dietary fiber content. If a serving provides more than 3 grams of
fiber it most likely contains whole grains.
Refined grains have been milled to remove the bran and germ layer,
leaving just the endosperm. The grain is stripped of most of its
iron content, fiber, and B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin,
and folate). This process improves the shelf life and gives products
a finer texture. Manufacturers later "enrich" products
by adding synthetic B vitamins and iron back into their products
but in lesser quantities. Fiber is not added as part of the enrichment
"Wheat flour"is not necessarily a whole grain. Many baked
goods are colored brown, often with molasses, and made to look like
whole grain. Try to purchase bread that has the words "whole
wheat flour" on the label and in the ingredients.
Examples of whole grains are: whole wheat, whole oats, whole grain
corn, popcorn, brown and wild rice, whole rye, whole grain barley,
buckwheat, quinoa, tritacale, millet, bulgur and sorghum.
Examples of refined grains are: white bread, white flour, white
rice, grits, pasta, corn tortillas, pretzels, crackers and degermed
By Amy Lowy