Understanding Complex Carbohydrates -- A More Complex Issue than You Might Think

There's been a lot of emphasis lately on eating foods that are high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates, but nutritionists say Americans are cutting back on the wrong kind of carbohydrate. People concerned about their health and their weight need to understand that not all carbohydrates are created equal.

It has been proven that diets high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates contribute to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. On the other hand, "Diets high in complex carbohydrates are naturally rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, and other nutrients that reduce the risk of heart attack, colon cancer and stroke," says Heidi Reichenberger, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

She also points out that simple carbohydrates, such as white sugar, white rice and white flour, have few nutrients to absorb so your body processes them very quickly. Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat flour, are nutrient rich, so the body takes its time with them. “It just makes sense that anything that takes longer to digest will keep you full and satisfied longer," she says.

Gail Davis of Grainaissance, a natural foods company that has a line of beverages and snacks made from organic brown rice, agrees. "Foods that are refined and over-processed are just not good for you. People can sit down and eat a huge portion of pasta or a basket full of bread made from white flour, but still not feel satisfied because their bodies are not getting the nutrition they need."

The lack of nutrition is why people get hungry again shortly after eating a meal at a Chinese restaurant that includes mounds of white rice, or drinking a chocolate milk shake from a fast food restaurant; but not all shakes are bad for you. "Grainaissance Amazake is a delicious dairy-free shake made with 100-percent brown rice and packed with nutrition," says Davis. It comes in 14 different flavors, including nutrient fortified Tiger Chai, Gimmie Green which is a rich vegetable source of B-vitamins, trace minerals, and beta-carotene, and Almond Shake, which is extremely popular among kids. "All of the shakes make a great snack or meal on the run," says Davis.

To go along with their healthy drinks, Grainaissance also carries a line of nutritious snacks -- bake and serve rice puffs called Mochi (moh-chee). Made from organic, whole grain brown rice without any animal-derived ingredients, additives, preservatives or colorings, Mochi is low in sodium, fat and calories, and it's gluten-free. It too, is available in a variety of flavors, including Raisin-Cinnamon, Sesame Garlic, and Chocolate Brownie.



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