There seem to be as many food trends as there are foods. As the curators of all the foods we eat and enjoy, there can sometimes be a fine line (maybe perceived) between what is tasty and what is healthy. We want to straddle both to find that delicious and nutritious sweet spot. Still, when perusing diets and food choices, our brains might begin to function on overload.
For decades terms including high cholesterol, low fat, vegetarian, keto, vegan, and paleo, as well as an endless supply of others, can prove confusing. One subset of foods that is a topic of numerous food shows, blogs, websites, chefs, and retailers is foods either high or low in carbohydrates. Even our meal conversations among family and friends refer to the amount and complexity of the carbs we eat.
We want food to taste good and our meals to be healthy, but how do we achieve that with carbohydrates in mind? And once we strike the right balance of carbs in our diets, will we still struggle with how to make healthy food taste good?
What Are Carbohydrates
Let’s dismiss the notion that all carbs are wrong because that is just not the case. In fact, carbs are a necessary macronutrient, along with protein and fat, that become an energy source for our body to function. The balance of these three building blocks keeps us healthy because our systems will work efficiently with their presence.
Simple carbs (processed sugar, candy, pastries, sugary drinks) are essentially sugar that becomes the blood sugar, or glucose, that exists in our bloodstream. It is a fuel source of rapid energy because of its ability to break down easily and quickly. Too much of this can lead to spikes in glucose and potentially contribute to acquiring diabetes. Too little, and our bodies target protein and fat for energy which can pose different medical issues.
Complex carbs tend to fair better in our perception of what foods are considered to have nutritional value. Because breaking down this version of carbohydrates takes longer, glucose levels remain stable and provide energy over time without poaching from protein or fat stores. These foods include whole grains as well as many fruits and vegetables.
What Carbs to Eat and What Carbs to Avoid
There are a lot of misconceptions about the consumption of carbs. Some people believe they are always detrimental to health or contain gluten. Possibly worse are the folks who think carbs only belong in the category of white bread or pasta and don’t consider the simple carbs in desserts and beverages.
Information is critical when determining what carbs to include as staples in a healthy diet and what carbs to avoid that can lead to weight gain or other health issues. You know your body, energy levels, physical activity, and tastes. With some research about what foods belong in the high carb or low carb categories, including which are simple and complex, you will be able to create food lists and subsequent menus for achieving a balanced diet.
Best Carb Choices
· Oats, Quinoa, and Buckwheat are all high in protein and fiber, gluten-free, and contain numerous vitamins and minerals.
· Bananas- This sweet fruit is high in complex carbs and potassium and contributes to gut health.
· Sweet Potatoes and Beets- These complex carbs contain flavor, fiber, and antioxidants.
· Apples, Berries, and Citrus- These fruits are loaded with good carbs, vitamins, and antioxidants.
· Beans, Lentils, and Legumes- All are excellent sources of proteins, carbs, and fiber.
Worst Carb Choices
· White bread, bagels, and some pasta
· Sugary coffee drinks, sodas, and sweet teas and juices
· Baked goods including cakes, cookies, muffins, crackers, and pastries
· Candies and other sweets, including sweet cereals
· Jellies, jams, and other condiments like ketchup and barbeque sauce
Changing your diet regarding the kind of carbohydrates you eat and in what amount requires some trial and error. After some experimentation, you’ll soon discover which foods provide you with the energy and nutrients you need that allow you to enjoy exceptional taste and variety in your meals.