Some popular diets treat carbohydrates like they’re the source of all things flabby and unsightly. It’s true that highly processed, easily digested carbohydrates–white bread, white rice, potatoes, pastries and sugary sodas–do contribute to weight gain and have been linked to cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation and colon cancer.
But don’t let the bad news about carbs lead you to a diet of bacon, butter and cheeseburgers. This sort of diet has too much fat, especially artery-clogging saturated fat. It has too much animal protein and not enough fiber and other nutrients from vegetables and fruits. While you may lose weight on this diet initially, you’re highly likely to gain it back—fast—once you start eating carbs again (and you will, no doubt, start eating carbs again!).
There’s a better way to have your carbs and lose weight, too. The trick is to eat unprocessed starchy foods like whole grains, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans and fruit. These carbs have the opposite effect as refined carbs. Their consumption has been linked to reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and to a lower body weight.
Try these ways to add good carbs to your diet:
- Have a whole-grain breakfast. Try hot cereal, like steel-cut oats, or a cold cereal that lists a whole grain first in the ingredients. Or have buckwheat pancakes with bananas, or whole grain toast with peanut butter.
- For sandwiches, use breads made with only whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread.
- Use only whole grain pasta, or make “noodles” from spaghetti squash or thinly sliced zucchini.
- Roast carrots, turnips and parsnips to serve instead of potatoes with meat.
- Make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.
- Serve oven-baked sweet potato fries instead of French fries.
- Substitute whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, barley and millet for potatoes and white rice.
- Use pureed white beans as a base for creamy soups.
- Add chickpeas, not croutons, to salads.
- Make baked beans, chili, bean burritos, or rice and beans using brown rice and red kidney beans.
- Stick mostly with fruit for sweet snacks and dessert. Make fruit salad, or have dried fruit and nuts.
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