When it comes to eating healthy for a fit body, carbohydrates are a controversial topic. The most common advice you will hear in your pursuit of a healthy diet for losing, gaining or maintaining body weight is to “cut down” on carbs. Some people do actually cut down extremely on carbs. Unfortunately for them, plants and fruits have a lot of carbohydrates, so do grains. So fruits, grains and vegetables are bad for a fit body?
The answer is a straightforward no. Even though carbohydrates might not be essential, cutting them completely is not recommended. In fact, diets low in dietary fiber, all the components of which are carbohydrates, increases the rate of mortality. Many health organizations recommend various levels (45%-75%) of carbohydrate intake for a healthy diet.
There are different types of carbohydrates; some are indeed evil, others lie on the “cute kitten” side of the evil scale. Learn to differentiate between these two so that you can get the benefits without harming your body.
What are carbohydrates?
The first step in differentiating the carbs that are good for you from the carbs that are not is to know what carbohydrates actually are. Carbohydrates are basically hydrates of carbon. There are simplex carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and complex carbohydrates (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides).
The simple carbohydrates include sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose. Foods that contain a high amount of simple carbs should be avoided as they are usually not very nutritious because they don’t have much vitamins, micronutrients and minerals. You can consider them as “empty calories.” Refined sugar falls into this category.
Complex carbohydrates such as starch and dietary fiber are found in vegetables such as broccoli, corn, sweet potatoes, beans and more, along with grains such as wheat, rice, oats, etc.
They take a longer time to break down inside the body and have less impact on blood sugars than “granulated sweets” and simple carbs.
So complex carbs are good and simple carbs are bad?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Refined white bread does have complex carbohydrates, but the refining process strips the fiber along with a lot of vitamins and minerals. Fruits on the other hand contain a lot more simple carbohydrates, but, they are still beneficial for health as they offer various vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals.
Confused? Don’t worry; the following guidelines will help you select food items that offer carbohydrates along with maximum nutrition:
Rule of Thumb: Healthy carb foods will have high amounts of fiber, so check the labels to identify them.
Some Of The Worst Carbs
- Sugar – Table sugar, or refined white sugar, is a disaccharide known as sucrose. It is made from cane or beet root and offers no nutritional value. You should replace it with unrefined raw sugar or honey, these offer some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; however, the number is still small, and use of sweeteners should be avoided as much as possible. Cupcakes, donuts and other such products contain staggeringly high sugar content and should be avoided. Substitutes, such as, artificial sweeteners or using pureed fruit and dried fruit in baking instead of refined sugar is a better option.
Opt for breads and pasta made from whole grains instead of the refined ones. Whole grains have a lower Glycemic Index (GI), which means that they are digested at a slower rate and won’t a cause a spike in the blood sugar.
However, don’t fall into the brown and white trap. Always check the ingredients and the food label for carb and fiber count; many manufacturers add coloring to fool people into buying bread that appears to have been made from whole grains, but, in reality, was not.
Best Whole Grains
- Whole wheat (can be purchased as flour for baking and bread making)
- Brown rice
- Wild Rice
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole-grain sorghum, barley (can be purchased as flour for baking and bread making)
- Buckwheat (can be purchased as flour for baking and bread making)
- Bulgur (can be purchased as flour for baking and bread making)
All vegetables are beneficial; vegetables with a higher amount of dietary fiber, such as, green leafy vegetables are considered to be better, but, compared to not eating vegetables at all, consumption of any vegetable will improve your health.
High Fiber Vegetables
- Brussels Sprouts
Avoid commercial fruit juices as they have a lot of added sugars, which, add empty calories. Eating a fruit or juicing at home is much better for optimum fitness. Similarly, replace candy with dried fruits, dried fruit is not as good fresh, but it’s better than candy. Raisins are loaded with sweetness along with many beneficial compounds.
High Fiber Fruits
- Raspberries – highest in fiber, but all berries are good.
- Canned pumpkin
Nuts and Legumes
Legumes and beans are high in proteins for the development of strong muscles and they have a lot of fiber, which, as previously mentioned, offsets the carb impact.
One great advantage of legumes and beans is that they are affordable and easily available. They can also be included in a number of recipes to create delicious meals for the whole family. Green peas are full of zinc that help fight against the cold germs.
They also contain Leptin that is a chemical substance that alerts the brain that you stomach has had its fill. Therefore including green peas in your meals will ensure you get fuller with a smaller portion for a lean and fit body.
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Black Beans
Nuts have a low carb impact because they are high in fiber and naturally low in sugar carbs.