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That depends on which diet you're talking about, says nutrition expert Ann Louise Gittleman, N.D., M.S., C.N.S. There are quite a few lower-carbohydrate, higher protein and higher fat eating plans out there like Sugar Busters, Carbohydrate Addicts and The Atkins Diet.
"While I believe that white sugar and refined, processed carbohydrates like white flour and white rice should be avoided because they are empty calories, flat out eating NO carbohydrates is not a wise choice either," says Gittleman, former director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
"Cutting out all carbs, including antioxidant rich colorful veggies, fruits and whole grains, means losing out on rejuvenating chlorophyll, enzymes, vitamins [and] minerals," she asserts. Eating a no-carb diet also means that you're missing out on that health powerhouse fiber. Your body needs fiber for regulating blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and daily toxic waste removal.
Some carbohydrates are also essential to your anti-aging strategy. Potent compounds known as phytonutrients are found mostly in carbs like veggies, fruits and whole grains. "These phytonutrients aid in strengthening your cells and combating nasty free radicals that create premature aging and disease by robbing you of your beauty and vitality," says Gittleman.
Which phytonutrient-rich foods fight aging? Think carotenoids (broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes); indoles (broccoli, cabbage, and kale); flavonoids (citrus fruits and yams); isoflavones (beans, peas and lentils); and immune boosting sterols (whole grains and cereals).
"While it is true that we each have different carbohydrate tolerance levels, the bottom line is that the majority of us can tolerate at least five vegetables and fruits per day as well as one to two servings of non-allergic complex carbs from brown rice, peas, sweet potato, or winter squash," says Gittleman. "These foods are a wise investment in your long-term health, beauty, and weight control."
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