The "evil" foods that make you healthy

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Have you heard it said lately that the best way to lose weight is just to stop eating bread, potatoes and all pasta, too?  Is this good advice?  It's a topic that bears closer scrutiny. There are ways to moderate all foods that can help shed pounds. But here’s the rub. The human species has been nurtured for millions of years on these foods and, while it might be popular to demonize certain foods to boost a particular fad diet, the interlocking relationships that feed the human body are complex.

Obviously there are many renditions of low carbohydrate diets, some say to eliminate all starches and limit carbohydrates which are in multiple fruits and vegetables. There are such good health benefits from breads, pasta and rice and if you choose the whole grain breads, pastas and rice, you then get nutrients and fiber which helps to make you feel satisfied.

Potatoes are great fillers and good for you. Bet you haven’t heard that in a while. It’s what you put on the potatoes that can be bad for you, such as butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and gravy.

The greatest problem with eliminating these foods is when you’ve reached your goal weight, you then will begin eating the carbohydrates that you like in the manner in which you ate them before. That is bread and butter, potatoes and gravy, pasta and white or red sauce, etc. and it’s easy to see that the weight lost will soon be found.

And here’s the underlying fallacy. You might wind up slashing the very nutrients that make your life worthwhile. And make you healthier. In fact, the three foods you mentioned may have the exact opposite effect of making you heavier.

For example, bread is an excellent source of carbohydrates, which your brain needs to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of comfort and satisfaction, says Dr. Nina T. Frusztajer, a Boston physician who specializes in nutrition and is coauthor of “The Serotonin Power Diet.” She notes: “As your body digests carbohydrates, it releases insulin, which helps channel tryptophan - an amino acid - into the brain. Tryptophan then gets converted to serotonin."  

When serotonin levels are optimal, you feel calm and happy and have fewer cravings; when they're low, you feel depressed and irritable, making you more likely to overeat.

Breads containing whole grains are healthiest, and one serving equals one slice of bread, half an English muffin, or a small roll.

Potatoes may be one of our most misunderstood foods. Fried or doused in sour cream, they're not going to help you lose weight. But when boiled or baked, a potato's starch absorbs water and swells. Once chilled, portions of the starch crystallize into a form that resists digestion-resistant starch. Unlike other types of fiber, resistant starch gets fermented in the large intestine, creating fatty acids that may block the body's ability to burn carbohydrates. In their place, you burn fat.

A healthy potato serving is about the size of a fist.

Cooked pasta and rice are about 70 percent water - and eating fluid-rich foods keeps you fuller longer, compared with dry foods, according to research from the British Nutrition Foundation. Like bread, the carbs in pasta boost serotonin to help curb overeating. The proper portion of pasta is ½ cup cooked, or about the size of an ice-cream scoop.

Choose whole grain varieties for filling fiber, and add grilled chicken and lots of veggies to bulk up your dish even more.

Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2010.Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.