Tag Archives: #fiber

Why Carbohydrates Are Important

Is it me, or do those cookies look slightly evil?

Confused about carbs? Before you go cutting them out of your life, read on to find out why carbohydrates are important to health.

Clearing up carbohydrate confusion

A 2018 survey found that Americans blame carbohydrates for weight gain, which is probably why low-carb diets are so attractive. Yet, eating a more plant-based diet is linked to better weight control and other health benefits.

What’s more, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat. It’s rich in vegetables and whole grains, and is anything but low in carbohydrates.

It’s time we stopped loving to hate carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates give you energy 

The body prefers carbohydrates as an energy source because they are easily converted to glucose, the fuel that cells use.

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as milk, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans), bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and in cookies, cakes, and other sweets.

With the exception of fiber, carbs provide four calories per gram. Fiber is mostly indigestible, but more on that later.

Carbohydrates are classified as “simple,” and “complex.”

Simple carbohydrates, found in foods including maple syrup, honey, table sugar, and white bread, pasta, and rice, and milk, are digested quickly.

The starch and other complex carbohydrates found in foods such as whole grain bread, vegetables, and legumes (beans), take longer for the body to digest, making for a slower and steadier energy release into the bloodstream.

When levels of glucose dip in the bloodstream, your mental and physical energy drops, too.

Feeling “hangry” is a real thing

What happens when you eat a low carbohydrate diet 

A very low-carbohydrate intake forces the body to use protein and fat for energy, which isn’t ideal. That’s because protein is meant to help build and maintain lean tissue, including muscle, and to make enzymes, hormones, and cells to support life. When protein is used for energy, it cannot do its job to the fullest.

When the body breaks down fat for energy, it produces ketones. Blood levels of ketones remain elevated on a very low-carb diet.  Experts aren’t sure about the effects of high ketones on health, but they do know that excessive ketones can be life-threatening in people with diabetes.

A low-carb diet may shorten your life

Cut carbs and you cut calories, which may be the reason for weight loss.

Why low-carb diets work for weight loss

You will probably lose weight on a very low-carb eating plan, such as the ketogenic diet.

It’s no mystery why, though. Cutting carbs means cutting calories, which encourages weight loss.

If you don’t want to drastically cut carbs to shed pounds, take heart. Research shows that low fat diets work just as well as low carb diets for weight loss.

How eating carbohydrate helps you have a healthy baby 

Maple syrup and honey may be “natural,” but they are sources of added sugar.

Why carbohydrates are good for your gut microbiome 

Fiber, found only in plant foods, including whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and beans, protects against diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer. Your gut cannot fully digest fiber, but the bacteria that live in  you gut can.

Bacteria in the colon ferment, or feed on, the fiber in food, producing short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA protect the lining of your gut and defend it against colon cancer, help to control blood glucose, reduce inflammation, and strengthen your immune system.

Fiber helps to keep you fuller longer, which is beneficial when trying to control your weight. It also plays a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels, keeping blood glucose levels in a normal range, and preventing constipation.

It’s next to impossible to get the fiber you need on a very low-carbohydrate eating plan. As a result, you will starve the good bacteria in your gut that support your overall health.

Some carbohydrate choices are better than others, but you can still have treats! 

How to eat more good carbohydrates 

When it comes to choosing carbs, quality counts. It’s a good idea to consider the company that carbohydrates keep rather than taking them off your menu.

Foods rich in added sugars, such as regular soft drinks, granola bars, and candy, typically offer little besides calories. Limit your intake of foods with added sugars, but know that you don’t have to completely avoid them. Find out what your daily added sugar allowance is here.

Why it’s OK to eat refined grains

Choose high-carb, nutrient-rich foods more often to support your health.

Fruits and vegetables, and plain milk and yogurt, contain naturally-occurring simple sugars. They are not on the list of sweeter foods experts advise us to limit, however.

Foods with naturally-occurring sugar, as well as starchy foods such as whole and enriched grains, potatoes, and rice, are desirable because they supply vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, and phytonutrients, beneficial plant compounds that protect your cells.

Fortified grains supply additional nutrients, such as iron and folic acid, which are often in short supply in women of childbearing age.

The downside of going gluten-free

Bread made with enriched grains provides vitamins and minerals that often go missing in our diets.

How much carbohydrate and fiber should you eat?

Suggested daily carbohydrate and fiber intakes are based on calorie requirements.

Experts recommend consuming 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories as carbohydrate. That amounts to:

  • 248 to 358 grams on a 2,200-calorie eating plan
  • 225 and 325 grams on a 2,000-calorie eating plan
  • 202 to 293 grams on an 1,800-calorie eating plan

Just for reference, popular low-carb diets suggest far less carbohydrate than nutrition experts.  For example, the ketogenic way of eating recommends no more than 50 grams daily, about the amount found in a three-ounce egg bagel.

Fruit is full of water, and can help you meet your daily fluid needs.

Check this list for the carbohydrate content of foods. 

Suggested fiber intakes are easier to figure:

• For every 1,000 calories consumed, eat at least 14 grams of fiber from food.

• For example, on a 2,000-calorie eating plan, include a minimum of 28 grams of food fiber daily.

Beans supply a type of fiber that help beneficial gut bacteria thrive!

How to get the fiber you need every day

It’s easier to include enough fiber and other carbohydrates when you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables (which includes beans) and at least three servings a day of whole grains.

Don’t be concerned about eating refined grains. As long as they are fortified, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, they can be part of a balanced diet.

For packaged foods, check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for fiber content.

Here are some common fiber sources, listed in grams:

Navy beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 10

Lentils, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Black beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Garbanzo beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Whole wheat bread, 2 ounces: 6

White beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 6

Pear, 1 medium: 6

Avocado, 1⁄2 cup: 5

Soybeans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked or roasted: 5

Peas, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 4

Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon: 4

Apple, medium, with skin:  4

Raspberries, 1⁄2 cup: 4

Potato, medium, with skin, baked: 4

Sweet potato, medium, flesh only, baked: 4

Almonds, 1 ounce: 4

Broccoli, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 3

Orange, 1 medium: 3

Banana, 1 medium: 3

Quinoa, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 3

Conclusion: The truth about carbohydrates

Most foods rich in carbohydrate also contain important nutrients that cannot be found in other foods.

Like any calorie-containing component of food, including protein, fat, and alcohol, too much carbohydrate may end up as stored body fat because of the excess calories it provides.

Eating much less than the recommended amount of carbohydrate is not a good idea, either, because it may have many negative effects on your health.

Including more plant foods and plain dairy products in a balanced eating plan is your best bet for getting enough “good” carbs.  Added sugar can also be part of a healthy diet for most people, including those with diabetes. (Check with your dietitian about your daily carbohydrate #budget”.)

Vegetables supply several nutrients, including fiber and phytonutrients – protective plant compounds.

Easy Black Bean Brownie Recipe

Warning: Rave ahead. As in I can’t stop raving about this easy black bean brownie recipe that’s flourless and gluten-free!

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How to make healthier brownies

Fruits and vegetables can make indulgences like brownies healthier, even when treats have added sugar.

Beans, which are a vegetable, are brimming with good nutrition.

Beans supply protein, fiber, and potassium, and beans also contain phytonutrients, compounds that protect cells.

Beans are useful for replacing some fat in baked goods, and black beans enhance the fudge-like texture of baked goods.

In this recipe, pureed black beans stand in for flour.

In addition, along with the raspberries, black beans bump up the fiber to 8 grams per serving – about 25% of the Daily Value for fiber! And, black beans and eggs team up to supply 7 grams of protein per serving.

I can’t get enough raspberries. They’re delicious, beautiful, and powerful little orbs that supply vitamin C, fiber, phytonutrients, and so much more. And, raspberries provide natural sweetness so you can use less added sugar in baked goods.

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Simple black bean brownies to brag about 

I told you I was going to brag.

These easy black bean brownies take about 40 minutes from start to finish. While they look special enough for a celebration, they’re also easy enough to make any time.

We are crazy about this easy black bean brownie recipe at our house. I hope you like it as much as we do!

Easy Black Bean Brownie Recipe 

Makes 8 servings.

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon canola oil

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup + 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (or 1/3 cup white chocolate chips for the topping)

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, washed and dried

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Place the beans and 3 tablespoons of oil in a food processor. Process on high until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract and blend well.  Add the baking powder and salt and blend for 10 seconds more. Stir in 1/2 cup of the dark chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes.

Top the brownies with the raspberries.  Combine the remaining teaspoon of canola oil and the remaining 1/3 cup dark or white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave until chips are melted, about 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to stir once.  Immediately drizzle the chocolate mixture on top of the raspberries. Allow the chocolate to harden for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Per serving: 
316 calories; 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated fat); 54 milligrams cholesterol; 271 milligrams sodium; 45 grams carbohydrate; 8 grams fiber; 7 grams protein

No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Muffin Cups

I love muffins, but I don’t love the huge, high-calorie coffee shop and supermarket versions filled with refined carbohydrates and not much else in the way of nutrition. I bake a batch of these simple, no-added sugar banana raisin oatmeal muffin cups on the weekend to have for breakfast or snacks all week long. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups

No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups get their sweetness from fruit.

Why No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Muffin Cups are Better

Why are these “muffins” better than most? Bananas and raisins supply natural sweetness, as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In addition to having no added sugar, these muffin cups use oatmeal, so they are completely whole-grain. And walnuts add crunch, heart-healthy fat, fiber, and protein, too. As long as you use gluten-free oatmeal, these muffin cups won’t have any gluten.

No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups

Makes 16 servings.

3 cups oats, uncooked

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

3 ripe medium bananas, mashed well

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups 1% low-fat milk

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. (I find this works better than lining the pan with paper liners because the muffins tend to stick to the paper.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined.  Whisk in the milk.

Pour the banana mixture into the oats mixture. Add the raisins. Stir well to combine. The batter has a lot of liquid in it, so don’t worry if it looks soupy.

Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with batter (a scant 1/4-cup full).

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes, with the muffins still in the pan. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on the wire rack. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Per serving (made without walnuts): Calories: 145, Carbohydrate: 21 grams, Fiber: 2 grams, Protein: 4 grams, Fat: 6 grams, Saturated fat: 1 gram, Cholesterol: 28 milligrams, Sodium: 157 milligrams, Calcium: 80 milligrams.

No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups

No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups are better for you than store-bought muffins.

Per serving (made with walnuts): Calories: 169, Carbohydrate: 22 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 5 grams, Fat: 8 grams, Saturated fat: 1 gram, Cholesterol: 28 milligrams, Sodium: 157 milligrams, Calcium: 90 milligrams.

Better for You Chili

Chili is the perfect meal for cooler days. My version is better for you because it’s light on the beef, packed with vegetables, and features a secret ingredient that boosts flavor and nutrition without overpowering the dish. It’s a good idea to make a double batch of this easy, nutritious dish. It tastes great the next day, too!

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More Beans, Please

I like more beans (technically, legumes) and less meat in my chili to improve nutrition and cut food cost.  Beans supply protein, fiber, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals, and, as part of a balanced diet, they can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood that lead to clogged arteries and heart disease. Beans are rich in prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits your health in several ways.

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I choose canned, drained beans for the sake of convenience and because I lack the forethought to buy dried beans and soak them! Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%.

Have it Your Way

This recipe is flexible.  You can use turkey instead of beef, eliminate the meat and add even more beans to make a vegetarian chili, or use different types of beans, such as white kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Also, I’m a wimp, so I keep the heat to a minimum. Add chili powder, jalapeño peppers, more cumin, or any other spice you like. It’s your choice!

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The Secret Ingredient, Revealed

So, what’s the big secret? A little bit of cocoa powder.  Unsweetened cocoa powder upgrades chili by intensifying the flavor of the meat, and you won’t even know it’s there. Cocoa powder is also good for you.

Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids. While it’s still unclear exactly how flavonoids benefit health, they may help to lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and the brain.

Buy unsweetened cocoa powder that hasn’t been treated with alkaline, which reduces flavonoid content. Avoid Dutch-process cocoa.

Better for You Chili

Makes 6 servings.

8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless turkey breast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat, breaking it up into very small pieces as it cooks.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove the meat from the pan. Set the meat aside.

Return the pan to the burner. Add the oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for two minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  Add peppers, and continue to cook until peppers are soft, about 2 minutes.

Add the beans, tomatoes, cocoa powder, and meat to the pan. Combine thoroughly. Cover, and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Per serving:

Calories: 291
Total fat: 9 grams
Saturated fat: 2 grams
Cholesterol: 33 milligrams
Sodium: 586 milligrams
Carbohydrate: 35 grams
Dietary fiber: 10 grams
Protein: 21 grams

 

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No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread

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No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread 

Baking without sugar and gluten

I love to bake, but the last thing I need is more sugar in my life. Sugary foods are my downfall, especially muffins, quick breads, and other baked goods that are often as sweet as cake! This no-added sugar fruit and nut bread satisfies my sweet tooth. What’s more, it’s perfect for nutritious meals and snacks, especially if you’re following a no added sugar diet.

Baking with ripe bananas is a great way to cut down on added sugar without sacrificing great taste. I use raisins to provide even more natural sweetness so there’s no need for sugar, honey, or other sweeteners. And, almonds and walnuts supply protein, heart-healthy fat, fiber, and some serious crunch!

Why carbohydrates are important

I don’t have a problem with gluten, but I know others may. I use oat flour, which is really easy to make at home, instead of wheat flour in this recipe. As a result, this moist and delicious gluten-free bread is packed with whole grain goodness.

The beauty of this bread is that it’s flexible. You can mix and match the types of nuts and dried fruits you use in any combination. And, you can make 12 muffins out of the batter instead of a single loaf of bread.

There are so many ways to enjoy a slice of this tasty quick bread. For instance, top a slice with peanut butter, almond butter, or cottage cheese. Pair a slice with an egg or two or a carton of Greek yogurt for a quick meal or snack. Add a piece of fruit for a balanced meal or snack.

I hope you enjoy this bread as much as we do in our house!

No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread

This gluten-free quick bread gets its sweetness from ripe bananas and dried fruit – no added sugar required! 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Resting Time15 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: banana, glutenfree, no added sugar, quickbread
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 253kcal
Author: ewardrd

Ingredients

  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups oat flour*
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dried apricots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries**

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F. 
    Coat a 1 ½-quart loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
    In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until no longer chunky. Using a whisk, add the eggs and canola oil and combine well. Add the oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
    Add almonds, walnuts, apricots, and raisins, and blend well.
    Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
    Cool for 15-20 minutes out of the pan before cutting.
    * To make oat flour, place 2 cups of gluten-free one-minute or old fashioned oats in a food processor and process on high speed until oats achieve a powder-like consistency, about 1 minute.
    ** Most dried sweetened cranberries have some added sugar.

Calories: 253, Total fat: 14 grams, Saturated fat: 1 gram, Cholesterol: 35 milligrams, Sodium: 135 milligrams, Carbohydrate: 29 grams, Dietary fiber: 4 grams, Protein: 6 grams, Calcium: 64 milligrams, Iron: 2 milligrams


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    Mix and match the nuts and dried fruit to your liking!
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