Healthy Carb Habits

iStock_000062333272_Double-copyThere’s a lot of information out there about healthy eating, and much of it focuses on carbohydrates and sugars. Kathleen Melanson, associate professor of nutrition and food sciences, offers these simple tips for healthy carb habits.

Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Carbohydrate structure is diverse, and can vary widely in its effects on the human body. Generally, carbs closest to their source in nature are healthier.

Eat fruit. Avoid sweetened beverages. Fructose, the sweetest of the sugars, is fine in fruits, but when we consume it in sugar-sweetened beverages and sweet processed foods, it can overwhelm our body’s ability to healthily process it.

Milk won’t tip the carb scales. The sugar in milk, lactose, is metabolized differently than other sugars and does not raise blood glucose as much as other sugars, or some starches. So when you see 12 grams of lactose listed in a serving of unsweetened dairy, it’s ok—just beware of added sugars.

Eat lots of fiber. Drink lots of water. Dietary fibers are broadly categorized as soluble and insoluble; each have unique benefits for gastrointestinal and heart health, and may moderate blood glucose. Just remember to drink lots of water, since they draw water to themselves.

Sweeteners like xylitol are fine in small doses. Sugar alcohols, such as the sweetener xylitol, do not raise blood glucose as much as sugar, or contain as many calories. Small amounts may benefit colon bacteria, but large doses can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.