Healthy Carbs to Start Eating Again
Bring carbs back to the table! No more food fears, especially when it comes to healthy carbs. Below you’ll find my picks for healthy carbs to help shield the body from chronic illnesses.
Fear mongers – especially carb-bashers – may have you confused in the supermarket and bored at the dinner table. And you might even be avoiding the very foods that boost health. Last month I shared some truths about carbs. Today I’m listing some carb-containing foods to start eating again. Why? Because we have to stop putting all carb-containing foods in the same baskets. Putting oranges and orange sherbet or whole grain toast and toaster pastries in the same food categories is just plain silly.
In the 80s and 90s, we vilified fat. We rationed nuts and shunned olive oil to “sauté” vegetables in broth! That was crazy! Today we vilify carbohydrates. Also crazy!
FYI, here are good fats for diabetes and the heart.
Food is so much more than fat, carbohydrate and protein (the 3 macronutrients). We have fiber, vitamins, minerals and thousands of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, anti-microbials, cancer-fighters and on and on. When we make our food choices based on protein, fat and carb content, we’re missing the bigger picture of eating and health.
A recent NIH study helps make my point. Researchers housed and fed 20 adults on two different diets for 14 days each. The eating plans were matched for macronutrients, calories and fiber, but they differed in food quality. Since they were offered the same amount of calories, carbs, etc, you might expect their weight outcomes to be the same on each diet. But they were not. While eating higher quality food (with healthy carbs), subjects lost weight, and they gained weight on the lower quality diet.
The study wasn’t very long, so we have no outcomes on chronic disease. But I’m certain that eating better quality food – oranges and whole-wheat toast, not orange sherbet and toaster pastries – gives us better standing to live a long, healthful life.
Let’s bring these foods back to the table.
- Grains: Oats, barley, quinoa, and popcorn are superstars in the fiber world. Both whole grains and dietary fiber are linked to less risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Some fibers improve the body’s response to insulin and help manage blood sugar. And some take the edge off of appetite and are associated with modest weight reductions. Fiber also helps prevent constipation and diverticular disease.
- Oats and barley give us the viscous fiber beta-glucan for better insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels (yay for blood sugar and heart health). Uncooked oats are a source of resistant starch, so I sprinkle some on my morning cottage cheese nearly every day. Remember that resistant starch feeds our gut microbes and doesn’t contribute to blood sugar.
- Fruit: People often ask me if fruit is good or bad. It’s good! Because most of the carbohydrate in fruit is sugar (there’s also fiber, which is a carbohydrate), it causes some concern. But remember, food is more than just its macronutrients. Fruits also give us a host of disease-fighters like polyphenols and carotenoids.
- Under-ripe bananas are another source of resistant starch.
- Citrus fruits provide cholesterol-lowering viscous fibers.
- Berries are linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- All fruits are good for you. Eat a variety!
- White potatoes: Fear of white potatoes probably comes from the over-generalized advice to avoid white food. But the humble spud is an important source of several nutrients, including the under-consumed mineral potassium. In fact, potatoes are one of the least expensive sources of this blood pressure-friendly nutrient. Eating fruits and vegetables at every meal will help us meet our potassium needs. A common problem I’ve seen with potatoes is very large portions. If you eat 1/2-cup of potatoes, you’ll get about 70 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate. But if you chow down on a 13-ounce potato, you’ll fill yourself with 250 calories and 60 grams of carbohydrate. You can get some resistant starch in your potatoes too by eating them cold. So now you have another reason to enjoy a small serving of potato salad.
- Pulses and other legumes: Beans are good for the heart. And they’re good for cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, cancer prevention and more. They give us plant protein, folate, vitamins, minerals, resistant starch and other fibers, as well as a treasure trove of health-boosting phytonutrients.
I think if you look over this list of foods, you’ll see why I call them healthy carbs and ask you to bring them back to the table. Let’s make our food choices based on the wholesomeness of food and not based on fear of one nutrient or another. Deal?
I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.
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Welcome to my Blog
Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.
I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.
And I believe willpower is way overrated.
Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.