Michelle Snow, Dietetic Major ’19, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
It can be a nightmare trying to navigate the culinary landscape in this age of information overload. We are constantly told what to eat and what not to eat, and most of the time the messages we see conflict with each other or change from day to day. Whether you pack a lunch to take with you to classes here at the University of Maryland or you are a frequent visitor of the Campus Dining Hall, knowing the truth about nutrition can have a big impact on your choices and ultimately, your health.
Carbohydrates have been in the spotlight lately and the question remains: To carb or not to carb? Fortunately, we’ve gathered the facts about carbs to lay your biggest fears to rest and hopefully set the record straight.
Where are the Carbs?
Fruits, vegetables, and milk all contain carbohydrates in different amounts, but they’re mainly found in grain products such as bread, rice, crackers, popcorn, or pasta. Any type of sugar is also a carbohydrate.
Carbohydrates break down into glucose which is the main fuel for the body. Without that fuel, the brain suffers and energy levels will drop.
Also, “whole grains” are necessary for a healthy digestive system, provide cholesterol lowering fiber, are loaded with important nutrients that support overall health and wellbeing. Fiber also can help with managing weight by increasing fullness. One of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines is to make at least half your grains “whole” to get these benefits.
Weight Loss Myth
In the media, cutting out carbohydrates has been suggested as a weight loss aid. The truth is that cutting carbs causes you to lose water weight which leads to temporary weight loss. This is usually followed by increased cravings for carbs, carb binging, and unfortunately, weight rebound.
Cutting carbs can result in your body sacrificing important muscle mass as an alternate energy source which may slow down metabolism and can result in even more weight gain over time.
How to Eat Them
Moderation and variety is the best bet. By including many different fruits and vegetables, drinking milk daily and including whole grains, you will be filling your body with the fuel it needs to run at its very best.
The amount of carbs that you need depends on many factors and is highly influenced by your activity level. The more active you are, the more carbs you need to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
A good practice is to include a grain with each meal and healthful snack. Here are some examples to get you started!
- Whole grain raisin toast and scrambled egg
- Multigrain bagel with low-fat cream cheese
- Salad greens topped with quinoa, roasted butternut squash, and diced grilled chicken
- Roasted veggie wrap with hummus
- Veggie stir fry with chicken and brown rice
- Veggie pizza with fruit on the side
- Whole grain crackers paired with low-fat string cheese
- Greek yogurt topped with fresh strawberries and granola.