Unless you’ve been hiding under a bagel all these years, you’re aware of the many popular low-carb diets that unfairly demonize grains, fruits, and starches. You’ve probably even tried going low carb for a while. Maybe you’re still avoiding sweet potatoes because a skinny influencer you follow online warns you they’ll get you out of ketosis, God forgive. At the risk of beating a dead Brussels sprout, we’ll say it again: Not all carb-rich foods will make you fat. It’s certain carbs, usually the ones that come in a snack box or bag or no longer contain fiber, that can harm your health and height.
Most dietitians and doctors agree, and research supports the idea that carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient for good health and should not be avoided. For example, Polish researchers using data from the US Health and Nutrition Survey warned that long-term low-carb diets lead to unhealthy outcomes in a study presented at the Congress of the European Society of Cardiology in 2018. The study found that eating less than 215 grams of carbohydrates per day for six years increased the risk of death from cancer by 36% and death from cardiovascular disease by 50%. (By the way, 215 grams is about the amount of carbs in a large apple, 15 crackers, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a glass of vanilla soy milk.)
A 2019 meta-analysis in the journal The Lancet suggests that carbohydrates may be metabolically protective. Reviewing 58 clinical trials, researchers found that adults who ate the most whole grains, vegetables and other fiber-rich carbohydrates reduced their risk of diabetes and colorectal cancer by 15-31% and lowered their risk of death from stroke or heart attack. disease compared to people who ate low amounts of healthy carbohydrates.
Here are some high-carb foods recommended by doctors and dietitians that you shouldn’t fear, but instead consider putting on your plate today.
Don’t say all carbs. Even posters for high carbohydrate foods, bread and pasta, are important for good nutrition.
“Eliminating all carbs can be counterproductive to your health, leading to significant deficiencies,” warns a registered dietitian nutritionist. Dr. SuNui Escobar, DCN, RDN, Doctor of Clinical Nutrition and owner of MenopauseBetter.com. “Carbohydrates provide glucose, which is essential for energy production in cells, including the brain. They also contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial phytonutrients.”
Remember to choose bread and pasta made from whole grains, which are slow-digesting complex carbohydrates.
Yes, these fruits are considered high carbohydrate foods due to their fructose or the sugar in the fruit. However, their nutritional benefits outweigh the carbohydrates you consume, especially if you eat the whole fruit, including the skins of apples and pears.
“Whole foods are high in fiber, often water, and nutrients to slow digestion, help us feel full longer, and reduce sugar cravings,” says Amy Shapiro, Dt.P.founder of Real Nutrition NYC.
Medium-sized apples and pears eaten with the skin provide 4.8 and 5.5 grams of fiber, respectively.
If you like chewy, nutty cereal, opt for steel-cut oats, a fiber-rich whole grain. A meta-analysis of studies in Nutrients showed that type 2 diabetics reduced their fasting blood sugar and HbA1C levels – a three-month blood sugar measurement – after eating oatmeal, despite the high carbohydrate content of the food. Other studies show that a soluble fiber called beta-glucan in oatmeal improves satiety, which may lead to weight loss.
“Whole foods crowd out less healthy foods,” says Shapiro. “We tend to eat less and smaller portions of whole foods like oats than we eat processed foods that are created to make us crave more.”
Yes, a serving of beets, which equals about a cup, contains 13 grams of sugars, but it won’t impact your blood sugar or weight like the equivalent in rice pudding or cookies. That’s because it contains 2.8 grams of dietary fiber, which slows the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream.
“Even notoriously ‘starchy’ vegetables like beets contain great health benefits,” says one dietitian. Lauren Chaffin, MS, RD, and owner of Nourished Nutrition. “Beets contain tons of micronutrients; including 20% of our daily folate needs in just one serving.”
Don’t overlook this starchy vegetable even though it’s probably the food (think fries) that immediately comes to mind when you think “carbs.” There’s a neat technique to negate the impact of carbs on your blood sugar, so you can eat them without worrying about being hungry in an hour: refrigerate before eating. Cooling white potatoes after cooking turns them into “resistant starch,” meaning it resists digestion and doesn’t raise blood sugar. Because their starch is not digested in the small intestine, your gut bacteria process it. This will balance your blood sugar levels and promote healthy gut flora, which aids weight loss.
For variety, put the yellowish-orange cousin of the white potato, the sweet potato, on your menu. Sweet potatoes are packed with the antioxidant beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A.
“A single serving has all the beta-carotene we need in a day,” says Chaffin. “Sweet potatoes and russet potatoes are good sources of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.”
A cup of chickpeas contains about 12 grams of dietary fiber and about 45 grams of carbs, making this very high-carb legume ideal for those watching their carbs and weight.
“Legumes like chickpeas and lentils and all types of beans are carbohydrate-rich foods, but prefer carbs because they contain essential vitamins and minerals,” says Dr. Escobar.
Bananas are another carbohydrate-rich food that you might be surprised to learn won’t make you fat. First, bananas are high in potassium which lowers blood pressure, so a banana a day is a good way to protect your heart. But if you’re concerned about the high sugar content of a banana, then eat a green banana. Unripe bananas contain less sugar and, like cold potatoes, more resistant starch, which improves the ratio of healthy bacteria to unhealthy microbes in the gut.
When you feel like you need a starchy side dish like rice, replace it with a serving of quinoa. This whole grain has a lot going for it: it’s a good source of fiber and protein, which will satisfy your hunger and slow the absorption of its carbohydrates (sugars) into your bloodstream.
“Refined grains like white rice and other processed grains increase your risk of weight gain and disease,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, author of The Sports Nutrition Handbook and a member of our Medical Expert Council.
In contrast, a fiber-rich whole grain like quinoa takes longer to digest, so it tends to keep us from eating so much to feel full. And this digestion process stimulates the burning of calories. In a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionresearchers found that subjects who ate whole-grain foods for six months burned an additional 100 calories per day due to their increased resting metabolic rate.
Eating a variety of fruits, though high in carbs, will provide health benefits that dwarf the calories and sugars you get from these whole foods, dietitians say.
“When you mix colors, textures, and types of fruit, you essentially get a broad mix of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which gives the product its variety of colors,” says Chaffin.
Make sure blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are in this mix. “Berries are a good choice to eat regularly,” she adds. “They all contain high amounts of fiber and are some of the most nutrient dense carbs you can eat, with high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.”
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