Carbohydrates (Carbs) are found in a wide array of foods, some are really healthy and most are not so healthy. Some examples of Carbs are: any kind of bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie. The most common and abundant forms of Carbs are sugars, fibers, and starches.
Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. But carbohydrate quality is important; some types of carbohydrate-rich foods are better than others:
- The healthiest sources of carbohydrates—unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
- Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.
- Healthy Eating Plate recommends filling most of your plate with healthy carbohydrates – with vegetables (except white potatoes) and fruits taking up about half of your plate, and whole grains filling up about one fourth of your plate.
Try these tips for adding healthy carbohydrates to your diet:
1. Start the day with whole grains.
Try a hot cereal, like steel cut or old fashioned oats (not instant oatmeal), or a cold cereal that lists a whole grain first on the ingredient list and is low in sugar. A good rule of thumb: Choose a cereal that has at least 4 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.
2. Use whole grain breads for lunch or snacks.
Confused about how to find a whole-grain bread? Look for bread that lists as the first ingredient whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain —and even better, one that is made with only whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread.
3. Also look beyond the bread aisle.
Whole wheat bread is often made with finely ground flour, and bread products are often high in sodium. Instead of bread, try a whole grain in salad form such as brown rice or quinoa.
4. Choose whole fruit instead of juice.
An orange has two times as much fiber and half as much sugar as a 12-ounce glass of orange juice.
5. Pass on white potatoes, and instead bring on the beans.
Rather than fill up on white potatoes– which have been found to promote weight gain – choose beans for an excellent source of slowly digested carbohydrates. Beans and other legumes such as chickpeas also provide a healthy dose of protein. If you simply must have a potato, eat a sweet potato but lay off on the brown sugar and butter many restaurants pile on as toppings.
Some people’s bodies use carbs super efficiently. Some bodies convert carbs to fat more efficiently. This is determined by your genetics, metabolism, and activity level. Thus, low-carb or paleo diets make sense for some people, but not others.
Experiment and find what feels best for your body.