Nutrition news: The good and bad of carbohydrates

Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare professor of epidemiology and nutrition and chair, Department of Nutrition at HSPH, and Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, are among nutrition experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 20, 2010, on how to choose carbohydrates wisely to maintain a healthy diet.

Nutrition experts divide carbohydrates into “good” and “bad.” Good carbs, like whole grains, brown rice and legumes, don’t raise blood glucose quickly. Bad carbs, like white bread, cookies and sugary sodas, cause blood glucose to rise quickly. Experts advise lowering the share of overall daily calories that come from carbohydrates (in a typical American diet 55% of overall calories come from carbs).

“Eating moderate carbohydrates can be healthy if they’re comprised of high fiber and whole grains,” Willett said. “Personally, I avoid refined starches and sugars, and limit my carbohydrates to what I get from vegetables and whole grains. If I only eat healthy carbs, I feel so full, I really can’t consume more than 40% of my calories from carbs per day, so I tend to stay well under that.”

“Reduce refined carbs in the diet and replace them with lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and fats from vegetable sources,” Hu said. “Reduce the overall amount of carbs from 55% of calories to below 40%, and make as many of those good carbs as you can.”

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