Why is it that our body's primary source of fuel has become a dirty word? Along with all of the other nutrition noise out there, confusion about carbs definitely tops the list. Let me help you reconsider your relationship with some compelling info about why carbohydrates are, in fact, worth your time.
1. Never a Dull Day
When it comes to grains, get creative and try something new. There are tons to choose from and plenty of ways to enjoy them. Try some amaranth porridge or a barley risotto. Choose sprouted grain breads and amp up your breakfast cereal with oats or bran. Legumes, which are most often eaten as a vegetarian protein, also provide healthy, slow digesting carbs. Try swapping your potatoes or rice for a lentil salad or mashed chickpeas from time to time.
2. Not All Created Equal
Unfortunately there's no new research touting donuts as an essential part of a well balanced diet, but there's no doubt that there are a plethora of carbohydrate containing foods that will do wonders for your health, mood and energy levels. While the recommendations still stand to limit refined and processed sugars like those in sugary drinks and sweets, complex carbohydrates, like those mentioned above, are a whole other story. Complex carbs are less processed which means they've retained more of their nutrients and also digest more slowly to keep us full longer.
3. Energy Efficienct
Despite the bad rap carbs often get, they're actually essential for getting us through the day. Carbohydrates are our body's primary source of fuel and our brain's only source of fuel! Allowing blood sugars to run on low will only leave you constantly battling cravings as your body tries to get it's energy levels back up. Carbs are also the fuel for our muscles, so for all you athletes out there who spend countless hours training and building muscle, make sure you don't miss out on optimal performance by forgetting to fuel up!
4. Fiber Fabulous
As you all know by now, I'm a huge fan of fiber. What's not to love? Cholesterol lowering, blood sugar balancing, chronic disease preventing, keep you full longer fiber. Did I mention fiber also provides food for that healthy bacteria in your gut that helps with digestion? The daily recommendation for fiber is 25-38g and without carbs, I think you'll be hard pressed to come anywhere near that amount.
5. Nutritionally Dense and Diverse
Because carbs are found in such a variety of foods, cutting them out will really limit nutrient availability in your diet.
Grains are packed with B vitamins that help with digestion and a healthy metabolism, and magnesium which helps regulate blood pressure.
Legumes are a great source of vegetarian protein, heart healthy soluble fiber and iron.
Fruits and vegetables provide us with cell protecting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that do everything from help us carry oxygen throughout our bodies, fight inflammation and illness and support healthy muscle contraction, including our hearts.
Dairy products, although not really considered a carbohydrate food, do contain some carbs as well as protein, and calcium and vitamin D to keep our bones and teeth strong.
So come out of hiding and embrace your feelings for carbs! Your body will thank you.
Now for some recipe inspiration...
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cookbookman17/FlickrKidney, pinto, black, garbanzo -- just about any type of bean provides a hearty dose of fiber and little sugar. An ounce of black beans, for example, contains 7 total grams of carbs, 2 of which are fiber.
Of course, beans have the additional benefit of providing protein, and one study found that bean eaters weighed less (but ate more!) than people who avoided beans, WebMD reported.
levork/FlickrSquash, like butternut here, is another low-sugar, high-fiber source of carbs. A cup of cooked butternut cubes contains nearly 22 grams of carbohydrates, more than 6 of which are fiber.
The bright hue of butternut and other squashes signifies the presence of carotenoids, a type of disease-fighting antioxidant.
sweetbeetandgreenbean/FlickrThe particular type of fiber in oats has been linked to improved heart health and weight management, as well as lower cholesterol. Just don't overdo it on the sugar-sweetened toppings!
Alan Cleaver/FlickrIn some of the greatest news: Popcorn is a whole grain. Stick to the air-popped variety so you don't overdo it on fat and sodium -- one cup has 6 grams of carbs, 1 of which is fiber, and has only 31 calories.
emmadiscovery/FlickrNot only does one cup contain 5 grams of fiber, but quinoa is also a complete protein. That means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids, which cannot be made by the body and therefore must come from food.
cseeman/FlickrAny potato (with the skin on!) is a great source of fiber-rich carbs, but sweet potatoes are loaded with those same colorful carotenoids as squash. Sweet taters boast some vitamin C, protein and potassium, to boot.
keepon/Flickr"Nature's power bar" rivals sports drinks when it comes to providing athletes with energy (i.e. carbs) thanks to those natural sugars. But a medium banana also contains 3 grams of fiber and a hearty dose of vitamin B6, crucial for more than 100 different functions in the body.
@rsseattle/FlickrJust about any variety will deliver some fiber and a whole host of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are one of our favorite picks, since an entire cup will only set you back 84 calories. Plus, eating just one serving of the tiny superfruit a week has been linked with warding off cognitive decline as we age.