With all the fad diets out there, and information floating around online it’s hard to know what the real facts are about carbohydrates (a macronutrient). Today I am going to give you 5 tips to eat healthy carbs and why it’s actually important not to deprive your body of carbs.
Tip 1: Switch from refined products to whole grain
You can still LOVE bread, and pasta, cereal and rice! It’s OK. The choice of the carb is the most important part of this. Whole grain provides your body with nutrients and less chemical from processing. Refining removes a lot of the important nutrients from the product. The whole grain leaves those plant-based (that is what a carb is primarily) properties in tact. Check your label to be sure there are no added saturated fats, sugars or sodium.
Be sure to read your package label if it’s not a fresh food item! A daily value of 5% of less of carbs is a low source and a daily value of 20% or more is a high source.
Tip 2: Focus on eating nutrient-dense food high in fiber
Sources of good dietary fiber include beans, peas, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Things like whole brain rice are also included for high fiber content. Dietary fiber is many starches linked up – but it’s not easily digested. This is good actually. I know it seems weird – but we need it for proper waste removal from our body and our intestines thrive on healthy fiber.
Fiber helps you feel full (yes we want that so we don’t overeat!), slows digestion and the rate that carbs and other nutrients are absorbed into the blood. It helps interfere with absorption of fat and cholesterol! YES! We want less fat and lower cholesterol! This helps everyone reduce their risk at heart disease (heart attacks and strokes).
Tip 3: Veggies, Veggies, Veggies
I know you have always been told to eat your veggies, but there is a good reason. Vegetables are an amazing source of carbs, and they are low calorie with no added preservatives and a great source of fiber and a healthy starch. Choosing dark green, orange and red vegetables are the best sources. Some of these include broccoli, carrots and red peppers. Another great example is a potato! If you don’t want to eat that pasta, try potatoes for a healthy starch alternative.
You can pre-chop veggies ahead to make meal time quicker and easier. You can also eat them on the side as a healthy snack. Zucchini with hummus is one of my favorites! You will feel fuller faster than a bag of chips and consume less than half the calories. Your body will burn this fuel much more quickly than chips and you will get added nutrients from the vegetables.
Eating vegetables lowers risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Tip 4: Choose Fruit to Satisfy that Sweet Tooth
For some of us sugar (also a carb sadly but not a good one) is a weakness. We crave it (more on that to come). Instead of grabbing that candy or cookie, grab some fruit. The natural sugar is healthier for you. You can choose fresh, frozen, dried or canned. But be sure to read the labels on the cans. You don’t want any fruit that has been stored in a syrup or sauce. No more added sugar please.
Dried cranberry or banana are my favorites with a palmful of almonds as a morning snack. (Yes we need snacks – see why here.) Eating fresh fruit over packaged snacks has the same effects as eating vegetables – lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Tip 5: Reduce Your Refined Sugar
Although sugar is a carb refined sugars are the bad ones. It’s the one we don’t want to have. Added sugar increases risks listed above. We can reduce sugar by choose an unsweetened almond milk, or a fat or low fat cow’s milk based product. Choosing unsweetened creamer, skipping fruit drinks, sports drinks, and soda are also ways to lower our sugar intake.
Natural sugar like honey can be used in place of artificial sweeteners for beverages and provide a health benefit all in themselves. As always – it’s important to consume in moderation.
Why do you need these anyway? Carbs are your body’s number one fuel source – they are the gas for your car. They burn the best and the fastest in your body. Your body will look for them to burn for fuel first and foremost every time. As with any macro (or food item, portion or serving), moderation is always key. You should be consuming up to 300 g (on a 2000 calorie diet) of carbs a day. The majority (around 50 percent) of your macros should be from carbs. This may vary depending on your age, activity level, type of physical fitness you are involved in and more.
So we do need carbs. You really do. Your body will burn them quickly keeping your metabolism boosted and primed. If you eat in moderation, and you adjust total calories correctly you can still burn through fat and lose weight. Depriving your body of a single nutrient will only cause problems.
What happens if you deprive your body of carbs? You will force your metabolism to work differently. Although an immediate effect might be some weight loss (just from decreasing calories in), the long term result can be an increase in heart disease risk, as well as fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, constipation or diarrhea. As we learned above, carbs (fiber) regular our intestines and are a major fuel source for the body (that can’t be replicated by other macros).
So what’s the real answer here? MODERATION! We can eat carbs, but we need to choose healthy carbs and keep them in check. Enjoy your serving of pasta or bread but fill up your plate with veggies!
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