Breaking news: Carbs are not bad for you.
But all the low-carb diet trends might have you thinking that eating a slice of bread is synonymous with downing a gallon of bacon grease and shoving 100 Snickers into your mouth. That’s simply not the case.
While a diet low in carbohydrates can help people achieve certain weight loss or fitness goals, eating them every day is not detrimental to your diet, experts say.
Of course, if you’re allergic to gluten or have any other related intolerances then by all means continue to shun those little devils away. But if not, go ahead and eat that burger without holding the bun and skip the tasteless cauliflower crust on your pizza. Live life on the edge, you’ll be fine.
Why all the bad press?
Kris Sollid, a registered dietitian and the senior director of Nutrition Communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation says that the emerging popularity of low-carb diets has given carbohydrates a bad reputation.
“Bread is shunned in low-carbohydrate eating patterns because it’s high in carbohydrates and viewed by some as an unnecessary vehicle for other foods,” Sollid said.
Dr. Bruce Hamaker, a professor in food science at Purdue University, said that bread’s bad publicity mostly has to do with how certain carbs are digested.
“White bread has a high glycemic response, and that’s the idea behind white bread being not good for you,” Hamaker said.
“If one eats that continuously over time then its starch component is digested very fast and glucose is released into the body quickly,” he continued. “That is not healthy in a way, that’s the reasoning people give.”
Tessa Nguyen, a registered dietitian and food blogger, says that every year there’s one scapegoat in the nutrition world. Sometimes it’s fat or dairy, but carbs and bread always seem to be at the top of the list.
“I think a main reason why bread gets a bad rep is because bread can quickly fill you up without necessarily being nutrient dense,” said Nguyen.
While eating carbs isn’t detrimental to your diet, there is a difference between the types of the carbs you eat.
Hamaker said that there’s something called “carbohydrate quality” and it’s not right to label all carbs as “bad.” There are some carbs that are better than others. He added that while eating a slice of white bread won’t kill you, for the long term, it’s advisable to stick to breads that are whole grain options with added fiber.
“You go and have a big piece of cake or white bread, you’re not going to die but if you eat that every day it probably is not the healthiest type of carbohydrate to eat on a regular basis,” said Hamaker.
The professor says that although it’s a little more complicated than categorizing certain carbs as “bad” and others as “good,” carbs that tend to take longer to digest are preferable.
“Take a loaf of sourdough bread vs. a whole grain baguette, for example. A crispy slice of sourdough with a pat of butter or a slice of cheese is heaven,” Nguyen said. “However, you can do the same thing with a whole grain baguette and get the added benefit of the healthy fats and fiber coming from the whole grains, nuts and/or seeds mixed into the dough.”
Can you eat bread every day?
Hamaker believes that we’re not set up to be on a carbohydrate free diet for the rest of our lives and says that in fact we need a certain number of them.
Nguyen says that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating bread every day if it’s a something you enjoy eating — as long as you’re balancing it out with a variety of other fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains. In other words: don’t just eat bread all day every day.
“The only way eliminating bread can benefit your diet is if you’re allergic to it and/or have an intolerance to it,” Nguyen said. “Our bodies (and brains) need carbohydrates to function properly, so eliminating bread or carbohydrates from your eating plan purely because of a fad diet isn’t worth it.”
Sollid added that by cutting bread out of your diet, you could actually be depriving yourself of other healthy nutrients like fiber, whole grains, B vitamins, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid which all have important roles in the digestive, metabolic and nervous systems.
Most people use low-carb diets to as a form of calorie control which aids in weight loss, he said. If that works for you, then there’s no problem in doing so for the short-term, but make sure to look for fiber and whole grains in other foods like nuts, seeds and legumes as most people who do eat bread are still not getting enough fiber every day.
“Everything in moderation, but also choosing foods that in the long term could be better. And for bread, I think the ones that have more fiber and whole grains are better to consume in the long run,” Hamaker said.
Rasha Ali, USA TODAY
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