The latest buzz word in nutrition is "low carb." For many people, the low-carb craze, via diets such as Atkins, Paleo and Keto, has prompted all carbohydrates to be labeled as bad, but are carbohydrates really all that bad for you? The simple answer is no, not all carbohydrates are bad.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source, fueling the brain and giving muscles energy. They also supply the body with needed vitamins, minerals and fiber.
One of the most common nutrient inadequacies in the Western diet is fiber. Fiber is found in high-quality complex carbohydrates. It absorbs water and increases stool bulk to promote regular bowel movements, which decreases the accumulation of toxic substances in the colon.
Fiber can also reduce your total daily calorie intake. It is involved in increasing a hormone called leptin, which makes you feel full and satisfied after a meal. Since obesity is an epidemic that is related to increased cancer risk, diabetes and heart disease, adding high-fiber foods to your diet can support feeling full, weight loss and not over-eating.
In order to achieve the health benefits of fiber, replace low-quality carbohydrates (refined grains, treats and desserts), which are typically packed with sugar and added fats, with top-quality carbohydrates, such as as fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans) and intact whole grains (quinoa). Make a goal of 25-35 grams of fiber daily to achieve these health benefits.
Remember to slowly add fiber into your diet, and know that some bloating is a normal part of digestion as you increase your fiber intake.
Want more information on increasing fiber?
Learn about how to make an appointment with one of Northside's outpatient dietitians.
- Reynolds A, Mann J, Cummings J, Winter N, Mete E, Te Morenga L. Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. The Lancet. 2019;393(10170): 434-445. Available from: https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(18)31809-9/fulltext
- Zeng H, Lazarova D, Bordonaro M. Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention. World J Gastrointest Oncol. 2014 Feb 15; 6(2):41-51. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3926973/
- Reddy B. Role of dietary fiber in colon cancer: an overview. Am J Med. 1999 Jan 25;106(1A):16S-19S; discussion 50S-51S. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10089109/
- Williams G M, Williams C L, Weisburger J H. Diet and cancer prevention: the fiber first diet. Toxicol Sci. 1999 Dec;52(2 Suppl):72-86. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10630594/