Carbohydrates have developed a negative stigma in recent years and many people trying to lose weight have eliminated them from their diet. I’ve talked to people recently who believe carbs are the so-called enemy of weight loss and have given up many of their favorite foods in an effort to shed pounds.
Though it is true some carbohydrates contribute to weight gain, cutting an entire family of food from your diet is rarely a good idea. Just as you must make choices about healthy and unhealthy fat and protein options, there are choices to be made when it comes to carbohydrates.
How do you eat a complete diet that includes carbohydrates without sabotaging your weight loss efforts? First, it is important to understand the role of carbohydrates in our diet.
Carbohydrates Provide Energy
Carbohydrates are used by your body to make glucose, which provides immediate and long-term energy. When energy is not used immediately, it is stored in the liver until it is needed. When you eliminate carbs from your diet, you reduce the amount of energy your body has available.
There are both simple and complex carbohydrates. The complex carb category includes both starch and dietary fiber. There is some overlap with these because some foods contain both starch and fiber, especially bread, cereals, and vegetables. Both starch and fiber are needed to create a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Simple carbs are not necessary and are the kind found in cookies, candies, and white bread. Simple cars are the ones to avoid if you are trying to lose weight.
What are the Best Healthy Carbs to Help with Weight Loss?
Researchers recommend eating as wide a variety of complex carbs as possible. This ensures your body gets all it needs to function at optimal levels. Challenge yourself to try new foods from each of these categories every time you go to the market. That way you will expand the variety of healthy carbs available to you, which is a great way to prevent diet boredom.
Soluble fiber is sticky and as it travels through your body, it cleans the digestive system. Oatmeal is one of the most popular soluble fiber options and is also a hit among dieters. A half cup contains just over 150 calories and 27 grams of complex carbohydrates. Half of the fiber contained in oatmeal is soluble. Research has shown that adding oatmeal and other types of soluble fiber to your diet can help reduce visceral fat, which is the kind that surrounds the body’s vital organs and is associated with a number of different diseases.
Insoluble fiber is also important for a healthy diet and weight loss. Insoluble fiber is the kind found in vegetables and fruits. These are both great options for dieters because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients, and also have high water content. This means they fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied without boosting your caloric intake all that much.
Though most fruits and vegetables contain insoluble fiber, I’ve found sweet potatoes to be one of my favorites. They are packed with fiber and satisfy my craving for unhealthy foods, such as potato chips and fries. They can even be drizzled with raw honey for a delicious, creamy dessert option.
In addition to fruit and vegetables, you can also find insoluble fiber in brown rice, seeds, couscous, and barley.
A Bit about Whole Grains
Finally, it is important to get some of your carbohydrate intake from whole grains. Some of these foods are included above, but it is important for dieters to understand just how important whole grains are. Too often these are labeled as bad carbs because they are found in bread and cereal, but the truth is, you must look at what has been done to the grain during its journey to your table.
Whole grains contain all of their original parts and have not been altered or refined. Once the grain is cracked, flaked, or crushed, it changes and in some cases, loses some of its fiber and nutrients. So while it is beneficial to eliminate bread made with refined grains from your diet, you can substitute a whole grain alternative and not sabotage your diet.
Healthy whole grain choices to include in your diet if you are trying to shed pounds include brown rice, buckwheat, wild rice, whole oats, millet, and quinoa. A half cup of cooked quinoa contains a little more than 100 calories and 20 grams of carbs. It is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. These help build and repair muscle, which is especially important for weight loss.
I know what it is like to struggle with weight loss and feel lost in the world of “good food and bad food.” Understanding what it is that makes a food beneficial to our health can go a long way in the journey toward a healthy weight. What carbs do you plan to eat today?