(Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a series of articles on eating healthy without dieting.)
Carbohydrates. For the last 5-10 years, carbohydrates have been vilified. In the ’90s, fats were the mortal enemy. Remember Snackwell cookies? But they were stripped of fat and loaded with sugar! We took the fat out of everything and added sugar so we wouldn’t miss the fats! Fast forward 15 years, and what did we figure out? We consume too much sugar.
Carbohydrates — the main form of sugars in our diet — are bad news. But our bodies need carbs! God made our bodies, especially our brains, with specific functions that require carbohydrates to carry them out. Our cells are heavily dependent on the glucose in carbohydrates. Our muscles store glucose (glycogen) for sustaining activity and providing long term energy when necessary.
We need good carbohydrates, which come from whole grain/whole wheat sources. Look for carbohydrates made of whole grains. Eat other good carb sources like brown rice, farro, bulgur or quinoa. Sweet potatoes and beans are good carbs, too.
Men need 35 grams of fiber; women need 25 grams of fiber every day. Fiber is needed for good gut health. Ideally, we should get sufficient fiber from our food intake — like whole grain wheat, beans, vegetables that are dark in color and the peeling of apples and potatoes. Next time you eat an apple or potato, don’t discard the best part!
Carbs to avoid are ones made of enriched flour, which are highly processed and have lost much of their nutrient content. These are breads, pastas, crackers, etc., that are generally white in color. When choosing bread, watch out for clever marketing tactics! Packaging may say “made with whole grain” on the front of the loaf of bread.
BUT, if you turn it over and the first ingredient isn’t whole grain but enriched grain/flour, then they are trying to pull a fast one! Look for carb sources that begin with the first ingredient being whole grain or whole wheat flour.
Fats. Fats are essential for processes in the body like storing energy and aiding in nutrient transport. Just like carbs, if we eat diets too low in fat, we can suffer physical consequences.
There are different types of fats. Knowing the difference is critical for healthy eating. The first two fats I discuss are ones that raise bad
cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels. The worst kind of fat to avoid altogether are trans fats, which do not naturally occur. They are manufactured and mostly added to foods to extend their shelf life. Usually, they can be found in processed cookies and crackers or pastry crusts, biscuits, even tubs of icing.
The next category is saturated fats. The body needs some saturated fat — like 10-15 grams a day. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products. Any meat ground with animal fat will contain higher amounts of saturated fats (foods like burgers, sausage, salami and pepperoni, along with anything pork-related).
The last category of fats is mono unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. They are heart-healthy and raise our good cholesterol (HDL). Unsaturated fats can even decrease our bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. If you have high cholesterol, particularly high LDLs which have shown to be a determiner of heart disease, lessen your consumption of saturated fats and increase unsaturated fats. These sources are nuts and nut butter, avocados, olives, fish, seeds, and many oils like olive, peanut, avocado, sunflower, canola, sesame and safflower.
Lainey Greer is a Ph.D student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her blog is: https://greerlainey.wixsite.com/ embodiment.