These days it seems carb-consciousness is everywhere, with protein-focused diets proliferating and a greater awareness of the health dangers of highly processed foods, which are often carb-heavy. But not all carbohydrates are bad for you, and if you choose well they can be not only satisfying but also healthy.
The key is to avoid sugar- and white flour-laden snack foods full of refined carbs that spike your glucose levels and can contribute to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These are the carbs that have earned their bad reputation, having been stripped of the fiber and natural nutrients they once had. They are made of smaller, simpler molecules your body breaks down very easily. This quickly raises your blood sugar, which then plummets, often leaving you hungry, fatigued, even shaky — and craving even more simple carbs.
Instead, choose whole foods and minimally processed complex carbs that will better satisfy your hunger, keep you full longer, and provide much-needed fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Their larger, more complex molecules tend to take longer for your system to digest, making sugar spikes less likely.
Make it a habit to ditch the white bread, white rice, regular pasta, processed snack foods, sugary sweets and especially soda and other drinks full of sugar. Switch to smart carb choices in their whole, natural form whenever possible.
Do your body a favor and reach for these and other whole foods — and you may just enjoy benefits like being hungry less often, weight loss, more stable blood sugar levels, lower risk of heart disease and overall better health.
- Whole-grain foods such as 100 percent whole-wheat or other whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals (just don’t be fooled by products simply calling themselves “wheat” or “multigrain” or containing “wheat flour” — these are not necessarily smarter carb choices. Check the label for the terms “whole wheat” or “whole grain”)
- White whole-wheat bread — made with whole flour from a white wheat plant. It tastes more like white bread, but is nutritionally similar to whole-wheat bread.
- Brown rice, colored rice, wild rice
- Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn (better if air-popped and without butter or excess salt)
- Vegetables — most varieties, but focus especially on colorful, nutrient-dense veggies like leafy greens, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
- Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, peas and beans
- Most fruits, when eaten whole — including bananas, apples, blueberries and strawberries
- Regular potatoes (not fried), sweet potatoes and yams
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and peanuts
- Seeds, including pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax