Wow. Carbs seem to be getting a bad rap these days. With diets like the ketogenic diet proliferating in popularity, and ready availability of highly refined carb products a known contributor to our obesity endemic, it could easily lead a person to believe that Carbs = Bad. Is it true?
The answer is No, carbs are not bad – the trick is to eat carbs that are good for you! Carbs that are high in fiber are actually very important for our health. As reviewed in a recent Perspectives article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), available data suggests that benefits of a high fiber diet include:
- a 15-30% reduction in all cause death and cardiovascular death (based on observational data)
- a reduced risk of stroke, diabetes, and many types of cancers, including colon cancer
- lower body weight
- lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Interestingly, some of the benefit of a high fiber diet may related to changes in the gut bacteria that occur with higher fiber consumption.
The reduction in health risk seems to be greatest for a fiber intake of around 25-29 grams per day. Health Canada recommends 25g of fiber per day for women, and 38g per day for men – and most Canadians only get half that much!
So – is any type of fiber as good as another? There are many products on the shelves that have synthetic or isolated fibers added to them to pump up their fiber content, but we don’t have data to know if we enjoy the same long-term health benefits as we do by eating fiber from whole food sources. But as the authors note, (and I would agree with this based on current knowledge) – ‘added fiber is better than no fiber’.
For whole food fiber sources, Health Canada recommends:
- choose whole grain pasta and brown rice
- choose beans, peas and lentils more often
- add vegetables and fruits to your grocery cart
- choose whole grain bread instead of white bread
- opt for whole grain or bran cereals that are high in fibre (Dr Sue editorial comment – All Bran or All Bran Buds are an excellent way to pump up the fiber in your day without a high calorie bill, with 11-12g of fiber and only 80-100 calories per serving)
- buy nuts or seeds. A small handful makes a quick and easy snack.
- read the ingredient list and look for foods with whole grain at the beginning of the list
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