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Carbohydrates & Weight Loss

The carbohydrate choices you make are significant, because carbohydrates especially those from whole-grain sources can play an important role in healthful eating and disease prevention.

Carbohydrates are the fuel your body needs to function. Your brain, for example, primarily uses a carbohydrate as its source of energy. Most of the carbohydrates are plant based. Grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes (such as peas and beans) are typical sources. Dairy products are the only animal-based foods with significant carbohydrates.

Nutrition experts generally agree that 55 percent to 60 percent of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. And because carbohydrates aren't equal, there's growing evidence that you should be choosy about those you eat.

With simple carbohydrates, it's important to drink milk and juice and eat the right amount of fruit. But table sugar and other sweeteners provide unwanted calories and in large amounts can have health risks.

With complex carbohydrates, avoid loading up only on low-fiber, starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes and processed grains like white rice, pasta and white bread. These carbohydrates are more rapidly converted to simple sugars by your body. Instead, try to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates that include a good dose of fiber. In particular, legumes, whole grains and whole-grain foods appear to offer real health benefits. Round that out with the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables for a complete and healthful mix of dietary carbohydrates.

Here are five important ways that complex carbohydrates help your body naturally attain and maintain your ideal weight:

1. Complex carbohydrates have less than half as many calories as the same amount of fat. One gram of complex carbohydrate has four calories; one gram of fat has nine calories. For example, if you have 1oz of cheedar cheese, approximately 8g will come from fat. That means 72 calories of that 1oz of cheese is coming from fat. Alternatively, 1oz of pasta has less than 1g of fat or less than 9 calories coming from fat, and more than 20g (more than 90 calories) coming from complex carbohydrates. The healthy choice is obvious.

2. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that our bodies do not absorb 10 to 20 percent of the calories in many complex carbohydrate foods. This fact is especially true for starchy foods, such as pasta, bread, legumes, and rice. Ironically, these are the very foods that many overweight people avoid. Our digestive enzymes cannot finish the job of breaking down these starchy complex carbohydrate foods in the small intestine. Partially digested food passes into the large intestine where no further absorption can take place. In a sense, these are free calories! Next time you look at a calorie counter, you can subtract 10 to 20 percent of the calories listed for starchy complex carbohydrate foods.

3. Complex carbohydrate foods require a lot of energy to digest. These energy calories are given off as heat from your body instead of being stored as fat. This process is called thermogenesis, which literally means "heat-producing". When your diet is high in complex carbohydrate foods, you burn more calories as heat after a meal. If you eat more complex carbohydrates than your liver can store, 23 percent of the extra calories are given off as heat from your body and the rest is converted into fat. In contrast, when you eat fat, it is digested, absorbed, assimilated, transported, and stored as fat with an efficiency rate of 93 percent. (These percentages are derived from a 1987 article by W.P.T. James, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.) Over eating carbohydrate foods, even refined sugars, is much less damaging to you than eating fat.

4. Starchy complex carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and bananas make you feel full after meal. They actually shut off the hunger message from your brain. Nutritionists call this feeling satiety. Eliminating this feeling of hunger is an integral part of weight loss. Diets that require people to go around feeling hungry all the time are certain to fail. Fatty foods also produce that feeling of satiety, but they are much higher in calories, as well as being more damaging to your health in other ways. When you eat fat, you get fat. We'll be looking at fats in an upcoming section.

5. Complex carbohydrate foods provide the chemical links necessary to burn off body fat. In fact, if your carbohydrate intake is too low, you cannot completely breakdown your body fat. This inability makes it difficult for you to shed extra pounds. It also means that you build up toxic wastes (ketone bodies) in your system, causing headaches, dehydration, and overwhelming hunger pangs.

The reason that 95 percent of all dieters regain the weight they lose, is because they're working against their bodies' metabolisms and setting the stage for long-term failure. It's not the bread and pasta you eat that makes you fat; it's the high-fat butter and sauces you put on them that do the damage. By themselves, starchy complex carbohydrates are tailor-made diet foods. It is wise to include these foods, but try not to have more than one of bread, pasta, rice or potatoes at any given meal. This will prevent "carbohydrate overloading", while enabling you to enjoy carbohydrates that are filling and pleasing to the eye. Be patient with children, recognize that distractions will occur, and be flexible in your approach.

Reference Source 48,55

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