If there’s one nutrient in the diet that tends to confuse many, it’s carbohydrates. Are they good or bad? Will they lead to rapid weight gain or can you safely include them even if your goal is weight loss? And, are they really going to lead you to diseases such as heart disease and diabetes?
When it comes to carbohydrates, the key thing to note is that your choice of carbs matters the most. If you serve up processed, unhealthy options, you can rest assured they aren’t going to be fueling your body well, or doing their part to help keep you lean.
That said, not all carbs should be avoided. The right choices will help you maintain higher energy levels, help you keep your metabolic rate strong, provide a number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and help you feel overall healthy and strong.
Let’s look at the smarter carbohydrate sources that you should focus on getting into your diet plan. If you can include these, you can feel confident you’re off to the right start.
Topping the list of smart carbs is sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are great as they’re going to rank low on the GI index, meaning they’ll be released into the bloodstream very slowly.
And this is despite the fact that they still have a sweet taste and do contain some sugar. The sugar is natural however, so will be a healthier choice for your diet than the sugar you’d find in say a candy bar.
Another great thing about sweet potatoes is they’re high in fiber, so will help keep you feeling satisfied for hours to come after eating them.
Grill them, bake them, roast them, or serve them up mashed – whatever you prefer.
Another excellent carbohydrate source not to be shunned is bananas. Now, bananas do rank higher on the GI index, meaning they will influence blood sugar to some degree. This said, they are still a natural source of sugar and will provide an excellent dose of potassium, a mineral all active individuals need.
Bananas make for a great pre-workout fuel source, so consider serving these up before you head into the gym to do a workout session. They’re also nicely portable, so good for any time you need a quick pick-me-up.
If using them as a snack, consider serving them with a little peanut butter to help balance out the carbs by adding some protein and healthy fat.
Moving along, the next smart food to get into your diet plan are fresh berries. Berries are a very powerful source of antioxidants, so will help to combat free radical damage and keep you feeling as healthy as possible.
Berries are also rich in dietary fiber, so are great for keeping blood glucose levels in check while keeping you feeling satisfied.
Finally, of all the fruits, they tend to contain the least amount of sugar, so are excellent for those who are aiming to reach weight loss goals.
Whether you choose blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or raspberries, you can rest assured you’re making a wise decision when you have berries in your plan.
Moving along, the next source of complex carbohydrate to consider getting into your diet plan is beans. Beans are a very rich source of fiber, so are great for reducing cholesterol levels and regulating blood sugar. They rank very low on the GI index, so perfect for those who may be looking to prevent diabetes.
In addition to being a rich source of complex carbohydrates, another nice thing about beans is the fact they’ll contain a powerful dose of protein as well. If you struggle to get your protein needs met in your diet plan, beans may just help you get that additional in that you need.
Beans work great served on their own or as part of a dish such in soups, stews, or even in dips.
They are often overlooked for more ‘grainy’ types of carbohydrates, so start paying more attention to them in your diet plan today.
Speaking of grainy types of carbohydrates, that brings to the next source you need to know about – brown rice. Brown rice is highly versatile, high in fiber, sugar-free, and will keep you energized for the long haul.
The nice thing about brown rice is that it does keep quite well, so you can easily whip up a large batch and eat it for the next few days.
It works great as any side dish and with the 10 minute brown rice varieties available now, is relatively fast to prepare.
Another grain that can be used instead of brown rice when preferred is quinoa. The great thing about this grain is that it actually acts as a complete source of protein for the body, so unlike other grains that are incomplete, you can eat quinoa on its own and still get your protein needs met.
While it doesn’t contain as much protein as say a chicken breast or piece of steak, it does contain more than most grains, so can help you get that little extra in that you need.
It’s also high in fiber, low on the GI index, and will help provide you with a very rich source of magnesium, manganese, copper, as well as folate and zinc. All in all, it’s a great grain to have on standby to add into your diet at any time.
Finally, don’t forget about oatmeal. As far as breakfast cereals go, you simply can’t go wrong with this one. Oatmeal is high in fiber, sugar-free, and can be made in a few minutes if you buy the minute varieties.
While steel cut oats (the slower cooking variety) are lowest on the GI index, you can safely eat minute oats provided they are the unsweetened variety and still be sticking to a healthy diet plan.
Oatmeal is also quite versatile and can be used to prepare protein pancakes, muffins, cookies, and other baked goods.
If preparing a bowl and need something to liven it up, try adding in some cinnamon, unsweetened applesauce, natural nut butter, peanut or almond butter, or fresh fruit to give more flavor, rather than brown sugar or honey.
So there you have some of the best carbohydrates to include on your diet. You might be wondering about vegetables? Vegetables are definitely a must for any diet plan, but given they are so low in total carbs, they were not mentioned here. Just note that you should eat them – in abundance as well. Add them to these higher energy providing carbs for a complete nutritional intake.