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It's trendy to go low-carb these days, even no carb. And, yes, this can lead to quick weight loss
But ditching carbs is hard to do over the long haul. For starters, you're swimming upstream. On average, adults in the U.S. get about 50 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. And, if you really cut out all the carbs, you'll have to give up fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans – which are the building blocks of a healthy diet
So, why do carbs get such a bad rap? Well, as we discuss in our new Life Kit podcast, a lot of us are choosing the wrong kind of carbs
"We've known for decades that different foods affect the body differently," says Dr. David Ludwig. He is a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and the director of the New Balance Foundation's Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children's Hospital
So let's compare two carbohydrate-rich foods. If you are shopping in the bread aisle, you can pick white bread or a whole-grain bread, maybe pumpernickel or rye. They may have about the same number of calories, but the whole grain has a lot more going for it
"When you eat a whole-kernel, minimally processed grain … they take a while to digest. Relatively more gently. You produce less calorie insulin for calories, "Ludwig explains. Think of whole grains as slow carbs because of this slow digestion.
Whole grains – which include everything from whole wheat to brown rice to steel-cut oats and faro – are also rich in fiber. A new study published in The Lancet found that people who eat a diet rich in fiber and whole grains have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease and colorectal cancer. (19659017) Here's what to visualize: When you eat whole grain wheat bread, you're getting everything that comes in the wheat kernel. This includes the fiber-rich bran. It also includes the germ, which is the embryo of the seed, so it contains everything that's needed to nurture new life. Think of wheat germ as a small packet of nutrients, including zinc, magnesium and vitamin E.
But with white bread, all this good stuff has been stripped out during processing. All that's left is starch, which is one step away from turning into sugar in your body. "Refined starch is the hidden sugar," says Dr. Darius Mozaffarian, dean of the nutrition school at Tufts University
And it's not just a white bread. Many of the packaged snacks we eat, such as pretzels and crackers, are often made from refined starch. So when you eat these foods, that starch can "slam into your bloodstream, raising blood sugar and insulin," says Ludwig. And this can send a signal to the body to store the fat and leave you feeling hungry
I've experienced this. I know if I eat a scone or chocolate croissant for breakfast, I'm hungry an hour later. But, if I eat an egg and a piece of whole grain toast, I'm set till lunch. That's because I'm getting plenty of fiber – which slows digestion – as well as fat and protein that leave me feeling sated
So I've cut back on refined carbs. And science suggests this is the way to go. The authors of the latest Lancet study say their findings "provide convincing evidence for nutrition guidelines to focus on growing dietary fiber and on replacing refined grains with whole grains." U.S. Pat. Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least half of your daily grain consumption should come from whole grains. But now, most Americans under-eat whole grains and exceed the recommended limits on refined grains.
David Ludwig says it's time we just get off the roller coaster – the cycle of spiking blood sugar and hunger that refined carbs can cause. He says he wants to replace refined carbs with whole fruits (fiber in them slows digestion), beans, nuts, and a variety of healthy fats and plenty of protein
So, what does that look like on our dinner plates? David Ludwig has teamed up with his wife, Dawn Ludwig, and a professional chef. They have collaborated on cookbooks designed to help people eat smarter.
"I do not want anyone to feel deprived … or that they have to give up anything," says Dawn Ludwig. "I want to meet people where they are."
Here's how she thinks about building a quick and easy dinner meal. Pick and protein, whether it's plant-based – such as tofu – or meat. Includes some healthy fats, such as olive oil. Chop up some vegetables. "Then, have the whole grain be the side dish," she says. This is the meal together, try one of her sauce recipes below. (19659017) "I do a lot of really simple five-minute sauces that I have in my fridge that I can pull out" for dinner , Says Ludwig. She throws all the ingredients for the sauces in the Mason jars and mixes them in the jar with one of those stick-like immersion blender, so there's not much clean-up involved and they store well in the refrigerator
And, here's one the final tip for all of you who have a hard time turning a baguette, a croissant or a warm basket of rolls:
Why? A small study published a few years ago found that, in contrast to eating bread at the beginning of a meal, people who saved the rolls for the end had a 30 percent lower peak in blood sugar.
Nurse's Maria Godoy contributed to this report
Dawn Ludwig's 5-Minute Sauces
Cashew Balsamic Dressing ]
Prep time: 5 minutes. Makes about 1 cup
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil, such as high-oleic safflower or avocado oil
1/4 cup cashews
Place all the ingredients in a wide-mouthed mason jar or cup that will fit an immersion blender without splashing. Pulse a few times to blend until the cashews are in small pieces but still chunky. Place and lid on the jar. For best results, set aside for at least one hour to allow flavors to develop.
Ginger Tahini Dressing
Prep time: 5 minutes. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Makes about 1 cup
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinete
1/2 cup warm water
Place all the ingredients in a wide-mouth mason jar or cup that will fit an immersion blender without splashing. Blend, working the blender into the pieces of ginger until smooth. Add additional water as needed to reach the desired consistency. Place and lid on the jar. For best results, set aside for at least one hour to allow flavors to develop.
Prep time: 7 minutes. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Makes 2/3 to 3/4 cups
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3 medium cloves garlic
1 3- to 4-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cornander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
(optional) of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
9 or 10 sprigs of cilantro, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
Place all ingredients in a wide-mouth mason jar or cup that will fit an immersion blender without splashing. Blend, working the blender in the jar until the garlic, ginger and turmeric are smooth. Place and lid on the jar. For best results, set aside for at least one hour to allow flavors to develop.
Thai Peanut Sauce
Prep time: 5 minutes. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes about 1 3/4 cups
1 1/2 inch inch fresh ginger, peeled
1 large orange, 4 small clementines or 2 large tangerines, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup of peanut butter (no sugar added)
1 teaspoons of unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
] 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Place all the ingredients in a wide-mouth mason jar or cup that will fit an immersion blender without splashing. Blend until the orange is fully blended and the sauce is thick and creamy. Adjust seasoning to taste. Place and lid on the jar. Allow the flavors to develop for one or more hours in the refrigerator.
These recipes are excerpted from Always Delicious by David and Dawn Ludwig and Always Hungry? by David Ludwig and are used with permission