Carbohydrates have definitely received a bad rap in the past. Many people feel they need to cut them out dramatically in order to lose weight. The ketogenic diet is very trendy these days, cutting down your carb count to under 20 grams a day! There are many side effects to this particular diet that make it impossible for some people to stick to.
The truth is, you don’t have to cut out carbs in order to lose weight. In fact, there are healthy carbs to eat for weight loss.
What is a carbohydrate?
A carbohydrate is a molecule composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The body uses carbohydrates as an energy source, which makes it important to have for exercising. The body prefers this source of energy over any other type. Once you eat a carb, your body converts it to glucose, which is sugar. Next, your pancreas is signaled to release insulin. The insulin carries the glucose to your cells where it can then be converted into energy.
Which carbs should I avoid?
Not all carbs are created equally. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, there will be some carbs to avoid during this time. Any type of carb that will produce too much insulin will be a no-go here. These types of carbs are typically found in white bread and white pasta. Simple carbohydrates should also be limited and of course, junk food too.
Keeping your insulin elevated is very stressful on your body. This type of behavior can lead to type 2 diabetes. While losing weight is very important, other benefits can be seen when choosing healthy carbs.
What are healthy carbs to eat for weight loss?
The best type of carbohydrates to eat are those that are low on the glycemic index. The best option when choosing healthy carbs is to choose whole grain items and vegetables. These will fill you up while not release too much insulin.
A simple trick here is to just swap out the carbs you are already eating for the healthy ones. For example, instead of ditching bread altogether, choose a whole grain brand. If rice is your weakness, opt for brown rice instead. There are many choices that make modifying your diet super easy.
There are also some simple carbohydrates that should not be completely left out of your diet. While most simple carbs are processed, fruit is a simple carb that should not be rejected. Fruit has fiber and antioxidants that are helpful to your body. Bear in mind, fruit juice is not the same as eating a whole piece of fruit. You body will break down juice differently and it will not be as effective for weight loss. Ditch the fruit juice!
What are good whole grains to eat?
Sometimes, whole grains are not seen as commonly in our diets as they should be. Some may sound very unique or scary, but they can actually be very delicious. It can be overwhelming to look at these lists, but if you try one at time, you can certainly change your diet slowly over time.
Some great whole grains to experiment with include:
Steel Cut Oats – this is an easy substitute for packaged oatmeal. Steel cut oats are essentially less processed than rolled oats or package oatmeal. While they may take bit longer to cook, they are packed with fiber, low on the glycemic index and will help you feel fuller, longer.
Quinoa – a gluten-free whole grain, quinoa is great choice for your diet. Composed of essential amino acids, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, it is a no-brainer for your diet. Substitute quinoa for rice and you are going to have a delicious and healthier version of many of your go-to meals.
Buckwheat – likely less known in the American diet, buckwheat is another great choice for a whole grain. It is packed with essential nutrients, vitamins and fiber. While it is much more popular in Eastern European and Asian diets, it is making waves here too. Try it as a pilaf or tabouleh and you’re sure to have another amazing whole grain option.
Barley – perhaps one of the best whole grains that is easily overlooked and often skipped is barley. This is a shame! Believe it or not, barley can help detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body because it contains selenium. On top of all the other amazing benefits of whole grains, barley has even more to offer than most.
What about sweet potatoes?
If you cannot get enough of potatoes, then be sure to choose sweet potatoes. They are indeed low on the glycemic index, keeping you satisfied longer. However, be cautious of the toppings. Many times sweet potatoes are loaded with butter and sugar for extra flavor, but that rather defeats the purpose.
In the end, choosing any whole grain is a good choice for a carbohydrate. Not all carbs are created equally and therefore should not be eaten in the same amounts. Complex carbs like whole grains will keep you fuller longer and provide many more vitamins and minerals than many other foods.