Finally - some answers to your carbohydrate questions

Q: Is there research on whether low-carb diets help weight loss?

A: Yes. Some good studies show that during the first six months, low-carbohydrate diets do tend to produce more weight loss than traditional low-fat diets. Research shows that when you focus on reducing carbohydrate intake (less than 35 percent of total calories) you take in fewer calories overall. Fewer people tend to drop this diet, also. However, after six months, low-carb diets offer no advantage over other ways of controlling calorie consumption. Weight regain often begins then. If you desire long-term weight control and good health, a better strategy is to satisfy your hunger by filling up with adequate portions of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, and eating moderate amounts of lean protein.

Q: Are tortillas considered grain products?

A: Yes. Tortillas are grain products, since they are made from either wheat or corn. Corn tortillas may be the more nutritious choice, since they are often whole-grain products and they tend to be lowest in fat - if they are not fried, of course. If you prefer flour tortillas, look for whole-grain varieties and compare the fat content, since it varies widely. Although tortilla chips are grain products, they are high in fat - except for the fat-free baked varieties - and should be only a minor part of your diet.

Q: Is there a breakfast low in fat and calories that will carry me through the whole morning?

A: Several studies have shown that people who start the day with a breakfast high in complex or unrefined carbohydrates and fiber, report more hunger satisfaction, less fatigue and greater alertness in the morning. One good breakfast choice is whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and fruit on the side. Including some protein in your breakfast will help keep hunger at bay. Try nonfat or reduced-fat milk or yogurt, or a lean turkey or vegetarian meat alternative. When looking for a healthy cereal, keep in mind that some low-sugar cereals also are low in fiber. And, although 100-percent juice is a healthy drink, extra fiber from solid fruit should keep you satisfied longer.

Q: If I ate the recommended six to 11 daily servings of grains, wouldn't I gain weight?

A: Although health recommendations call for six to 11 grain servings a day, the top of the range may not apply to you. Eleven servings are recommended for those who need 2,800 calories a day - usually active men and extremely athletic women. Six servings can supply enough nutrients and energy for people who need about 1,600 calories a day, such as inactive women. Second, the term "serving" refers to standard U.S. Department of Agriculture amounts, and may differ from the portion you normally eat. For example, a one-cup portion of pasta on your plate actually counts as two grain servings. For additional health benefits, choose whole-grains like brown rice, whole-wheat bread and oatmeal.

Sarah Klein-Mark, R.D. is a registered dietitian at Flagstaff Medical Center. Information in this article is provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o Flagstaff Medical Center, Public Relations, 1200 North Beaver Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's Web site at FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com.

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