To Carb or Not to Carb?

Many of us are totally confused when it comes to carbs, not knowing whether or not it’s ok to eat them.  The truth is that you can’t just focus on the word carb without differentiating between good carbs and bad carbs.

Bad carbs, also known as simple carbs, are found in refined and processed foods like white bread, white rice, white pasta, cakes, cookies, desserts,  as well as beverages, condiments and dairy products with added sugar.  Refined grains have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients during processing and offer little to no nutritional value.  They are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar to rise rapidly and contribute to numerous health problems including weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes.

Good carbs are unrefined and in (or very close to) their natural state.  They are found in vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and seeds.  They are rich in fiber and nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E.  They also help reduce your risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer.

Some specific carbs to include in your diet are:

  • Sweet potatoes – they’re high in vitamin A for healthy vision and improved immunity, minerals like magnesium and potassium to support your blood pressure, and fiber for gut health and to help reduce LDL cholesterol.  Besides being high in fiber, they are a low-glycemic food so they release and absorb glucose into the blood stream very slowly to help control blood sugar.  Sweet potatoes are the main staple in the diet of Okinawans, where many of the residents live to be over 100.
  • Oats – they’re high in fiber for gut health and to keep you feeling full longer.  They also have a beta-glucan, a soluble fiber which research has shown to help lower cholesterol.
  • Quinoa – this ancient grain is grown for its edible seeds and is gluten free. It’s high in fiber, with 17 – 27 grams/cup, which is more than twice the fiber in most grains.  It’s very high in protein and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.  Quinoa is also very high in magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron as well as antioxidants to help fight aging and disease.  Studies have also shown that it can help reduce blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels.  It’s one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.
  • Carrots – they’re high in beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.  Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin and immune system, as well as healthy eyes and good vision  They are also packed with antioxidants and full of fiber.
  • Beans and peas – a great plant-based protein to replace meat, they’re also budget-friendly at a cost of less than 30% of chicken or beef.  Beans are high in fiber, minerals and B vitamins which support metabolism and give you energy.  They’re also a good source of zinc for immune function and healing.

For good health and weight, make the good carbs part of your diet.  Starchy carbs should make up about 25% of your dinner plate, while non-starchy vegetables are 50%, with the other 25% being a protein.

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