Clean Eating Series: The Best Healthy Carbs to Fuel Your Lifestyle
Supplement powders, pills, and juices are overflowing on supermarket shelves, and they’re casting a shadow on a food first approach to nourishing your soul and health. Even though trendy nutrition products are in the limelight, fresh, natural, whole foods have the real star power when it comes to providing your body with all the nutrients it needs. Choosing to eat food that is both pleasurable and nourishing will help you achieve your body goals while advancing towards optimal health. Over time, you’ll develop increased awareness about how specific foods impact your body, and you’ll be able to make better choices about the food you eat and buy.
The food label, which includes the nutrition facts panel, makes it pretty simple to scope out targets. It’s easy to zoom in on the total calories, and on food groups like carbs and fats. However, it is important to look at this information with a critical lens.
Carbohydrates are not bad for you, and eliminating them from your diet or severely restricting them isn’t the key to weight loss. In fact, carbohydrates nourish us more than any other macronutrient, and we need to get most of our calories from them. When carbs are digested and broken down they are transformed into molecules of glucose, which is the body’s primary source of fuel for active cells. Whenever your body is awake and moving, it needs carbohydrates to power through the day.
Balance and moderation are the major themes in all areas of nutrition. Carbohydrates come in many different forms, and understanding which type to consume more — and less — of is what’s important.
Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, milk, grains and legumes (beans). Whole grains and dietary fiber from foods help protect against nutrition-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
Foods high in fiber and those with resistant starch (cooked pasta) are lower on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a way to help compare sugar content in different foods, because not all carbohydrates have the same digestibility rate. The lower a food’s glycemic index or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods made with refined grains, instead of whole grains, or with added sugars are usually higher. These include cakes, breakfast cereals, white rice, waffles, bagels, doughnuts, and sweetened beverages.
Foods that are more slowly absorbed have metabolic benefits in relation to diabetes and CVD risk. Replace high glycemic index foods with high fiber foods like whole-wheat products, quinoa, brown rice, farro, barley, and unflavored oatmeal. I know unflavored oatmeal may sound alarming, but you can hook it up on your own with fresh fruit, raw honey, almond butter, and a little reduced-fat milk. If you’re going to buy a carbohydrate at the grocery store, look for options that have three or more grams of fiber.
As you begin to explore new ways of eating, you’ll learn the best way to fuel your body. Slow down when eating a meal to tune into hunger, fullness, and the flavors you experience. Moderation and mindful eating are the key to developing a healthy relationship with food that allows you to revel in the pleasure principle.