5 Carbs you should Eat

About two years ago, I wrote a long post on sugar titled “Sugar is Sugar BUT….” and I think it’s time for another post dedicated to carbohydrates (carbs) because a lot of people are anti-carbs these days. There is a general misunderstanding about carbohydrates because over the years, it has gotten a bad reputation and as a dietitian, I want to provide you with evidence-based information on carbohydrates + share 5 carbs that are actually good for you to eat.

Carbohydrates are essentially the main fuel source for our body especially the brain. We get carbohydrates in our food through different sources such as sugar, fiber, and starches and each of them play a different role in our body. For instance, sugars can be broken down into natural sugar (naturally found in dairy & fruits) & added-sugar (added later for culinary purposes & to enhance the taste). Fiber is the indigestible part of plants like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes and are often bypassed through the intestine. Starches (like grains & vegetables) are typically complex carbohydrate because of its molecular structure & are a good thing if they’re left whole.

About 50% of our calories should come ideally from carbohydrates, however popular diets such as keto and low carb suggests eating as little as 50 grams of carbohydrates per day (recommended carbohydrates 225 grams - 325 grams per day). Here is a really good article on Today’s Dietitian Magazine on Busting the Top 10 Carb Myths.

No matter what lifestyle you choose, just remember that carbohydrates are an essential part of wholesome, sustainable healthy lifestyle. Besides providing energy, unrefined carbohydrates have shown to help control blood sugar level, blood cholesterol, aid with weight management, normalize your bowel movement, and reduce the risk of many cancers. Instead of avoiding carbohydrates altogether, I hope you will incorporate these 5 carbohydrates that are actually good for you!

WHOLE GRAINS

Whole grains like oats, whole rye, freekeh, whole grain barley (not pearled), buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa are present in their whole form or ground into a flour while retaining all parts of the seed (bran, germ and endosperm). They are a good source of fiber and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium.  I like to visit the bulk bin section at Sprouts & Central Market to buy different grains and incorporate them as a side dish, in soups, and salads.

Cranberry Almond Stovetop Granola

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BEANS & LEGUMES

Beans & legumes are one of the nutrient dense and economical food out there! They are packed with carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and many other vitamins and minerals. If you are new to the world of beans and legumes, you should check out Legume 101 // Basics of Cooking Legumes . If you aren’t able to cook dried beans and legumes regularly, it’s a good idea to stock up on canned beans as they are just as nutritious. Just rinse and drain them before using them in recipes. Some of my all-time favorite beans and legumes recipes include :

3 Bean Quinoa Chili

Red Lentil Daal

Lunch Box Chickpea Salad

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FRUITS

Both fresh and frozen fruits are a good source of carbohydrate as they contain naturally occurring sugars (fructose), fiber, lots of vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. Besides eating them straight up, they can be enjoy in

Smoothies —> Make Ahead Smoothie Packs

Breakfast Parfait

Tangy Fruit Salad

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DAIRY

Milk and dairy contain natural sugar called lactose (carbohydrate), protein, fats, & many other essential nutrients. Rather than avoiding all dairy products (unless you are lactose intolerant or vegan), choose the plain regular or Greek yogurt and plain dairy milk (2% or whole milk depending on your overall lifestyle). Added sugar in flavored yogurt and flavored milk is something you should keep an eye on.

The Lowdown on Milk : Dairy, Non-Dairy & More!

VEGETABLES

Vegetables - fresh, frozen, and canned variety are great ways to add nutrients and flavors into your meals. Rather than singling out or avoiding vegetables altogether, it is best to incorporate different vegetables throughout the week. Eating different colored vegetables means you are getting a wide array of nutrients = different antioxidants.

Vegetables taste best when in season and are cheaper too. I typically use fresh vegetables in salads or roasted but won’t mind frozen or canned veggies in soups and stews.

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What are your thoughts on carbohydrates?