Carbs are an important energy source, but it’s easy to consume too much, and many carbohydrate sources have little or no nutritional value. Think of carb-containing foods laid out on a line. At the healthy end are whole-wheat flour, oats, brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat pasta and other whole grains that haven’t had their natural array of nutrients and fiber content processed out of them. Fruits, beans and legumes also could be on this end, as the carbs they contain aren’t as densely packaged and they come with a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.
At the other end of the line are highly processed products, such as cookies, candies, baked goods and soft drinks and include sugars that are added to many processed foods. There’s little nutritional value from these foods and beverages and you can easily consume large amounts of calories while hardly realizing it. It’s estimated that Americans get about 480 calories daily from added sugars.
Closer to the less healthy end you have white flour, white rice, potatoes and pasta, which aren’t as nutrient rich as whole grains. When consuming carbohydrates, get more than simply calories by keeping most choices on the less processed end of the spectrum and even then, keep portions moderate to help manage weight. Keep junk food and soda consumption to a bare minimum. Don’t bring them into your home. Consume them occasionally in small amounts, if at all. Read labels and try to avoid products with added sugars including corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, fructose and maltose listed as one of the first few ingredients.
Enjoy the harvest, as you strive to improve your diet and consider your options. Late summer is prime harvest time at many farmers markets. That’s a great time to move away from foods that are less healthy and calorie dense and move toward a nutritious diet based on a wide variety of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and other plant foods. Eating farmers’ market foods at the peak of ripeness and freshness is a good way to recognize that a healthy diet can coincide with eating fulfilling meals and snacks. Turn produce from your local farmers market into a meal with different recipes.
For more information on health literacy contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP assistant with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office at 910-592-7161.