Carbohydrates, in general, have a bad reputation in health and nutrition circles for their role in weight gain. It may seem like a good idea to limit your carb intake and/or follow low-carb diets such as the keto and Atkins diets. However, an extremely low-carb diet is just as bad as a high-carb one.
That is because not all carbs are made equal. Sugar does expand your waistline, but the same cannot be said of other carb sources such as starches and fiber. The latter is not easily absorbed by our bodies so it helps us digest food better, keeping our bellies full while protecting our bodies from diseases. In addition, vitamins and minerals that our brains and bodies need such as magnesium, potassium and calcium are hard to find outside a carb-rich diet.
If you are wondering which carbs you should include in your diet, here are the best dietitian-recommended choices:
Whole grains are different from processed grains because they have outer shells of bran and germ that provide protein and fiber, which help keep you full and lessen your snacking.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, consuming whole grains lessens your risk of stroke while helping regulate blood pressure and reduce your diabetes risk.
If you want to include whole grains in your diet, find breads or pastas that are either “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat.” Do remember that wheat flour contains only 25 percent whole wheat.
Oats, wheat and brown rice are known whole grains, but they are not the only ones. Try adding more barley, quinoa or brown rice into your meals.
“Pulses are excellent sources of healthy, slow-digesting carbs packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and phytochemicals,” registered dietitian Sharon Palmer told Business Insider Australia via email.
The plant-based phytochemicals, which are responsible for their color and flavor, help prevent cancer since they can decrease inflammation in your body.
Green peas, in particular, are filled with potassium and protein. While the latter fills your tummy, the former helps strengthen your bones. They also contain folate, which is critical for cell growth and development. Chickpeas, which are a staple of Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine, exhibit similar effects.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins A, B6 and C. However, because these sweet orange-colored root vegetables have a high glycemic index, which can result in a temporary blood sugar spike, it is best to eat them in moderation.
Instead of baking or frying, Harvard Health suggested boiling them with the skins on for about 20 minutes to retain their nutrient content.
Whether added to soups, roasted or blended into casseroles, squash is a good “superfood” that you can add to your diet. Although many squash types contain some natural sugars, they are also high in lutein, which aids in eye health.
Squash is also loaded with filling protein and fiber, and provides bone-protecting magnesium and potassium.
Fruits are often banned in low-carb diets since they are heavy in carbs and contain natural sugars. When consumed whole (rather than blended into smoothies or juices), however, even a bit of fruit is good for your health.
According to the Washington Post, eating an unpeeled apple with the skin on delivers about two times the fiber, 25 percent more potassium and 40 percent more vitamin A.