7 Healthy Carbs for Weight Loss
In recent years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap for causing weight gain, but they are vital to your health. Carbs provide energy, boost immunity, and can actually control weight. The trick is to focus on eating “good” carbohydrates (also called natural or complex carbs) and avoid the “bad” (or simple) carbs.
Knowing the Difference Between Good and Bad Carbs
Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) to get energy. Bad carbs like white bread, white rice, cereals, and potato chips have been processed, which strips them of their inherent nutrients. Fiber is one of those important nutrients that gets stripped out and then inhibits weight loss because it promotes digestive health and tastes more filling. Not only are simple carbs low or lacking fiber, but they break down quickly and your body gets an energy spike… and a sugar overload that can turn into fat.
Foods containing natural or complex carbs are good because they haven’t been processed and retain their nutrients – such as a high amount of fiber – and therefore take longer to break down. Your body’s slower absorption of glucose gives it time to intake more nutrition and avoid that sugar surge.
The standard dietary guidelines recommend that carbs make up 45-65 percent of your total daily calories. To help you get lean, here are seven of the healthiest complex carbs to incorporate into your diet:
1. Whole-Wheat Pasta
You won’t have to give up all those amazing Italian dishes you love! Most people have heard that whole-wheat pasta is a healthier substitute for white pasta, and it’s true. The grains composing white pasta have been refined in high heat and are missing healthy nutrients. Whole-wheat pasta is more nutritious and more filling for a very good reason – it hasn’t been processed, so it still contains its nutrients. In fact, whole-wheat pasta has up to three times more fiber than white pasta. (Similarly, opt for whole-wheat bread and brown rice over the refined white versions.) So keep your cupboard stocked with fettuccine and rigatoni, just make sure it’s organic whole wheat.
This ancient grain is the current sweetheart of the health-food world for good reason. It’s considered a superfood because its packed with fiber (about 2 grams per cups), extremely high in protein, and full of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Quinoa is easy to make and has a neutral flavor that mixes well with a variety of dishes. When you’re trying to drop some pounds, you can use quinoa as a breakfast cereal as much as a dinner dish. Not sure what it would pair well with? Our delicious quinoa meals make it easy for you.
Chimpanzees are fit and athletic-looking for a reason – all those bananas they eat. Bananas are chock full of antioxidants, healthy fats, natural sugars, and more carbohydrates than almost any other fruit – about 27 grams of carbs in a medium banana. Bananas have a great blend of nutrients, vitamins, and carbs that help you lose weight, lower blood pressure, build muscle, and feel happy. They’re also easily portable and a great on-the-go snack. Eat a banana right after a workout to promote muscle growth and strength, or right before bed – recent studies have shown that the serotonin in bananas will help you fall asleep.
Farro, another ancient grain superfood, is giving quinoa a run for its money in terms of popularity. Farro is a bit softer and chewier than quinoa, but has the same rice-like versatility. It has more protein than quinoa (about 7 grams per ¼ cup), is full of nutrients, and overflowing with fiber. Farro dates back thousands of years and was a primary food source of the Ancient Romans – take a page from Julius Caesar and easily enjoy this ancient grain with one of our Farro Quick Meals available for purchase at Cost Plus World Market.
5. Sweet Potatoes
That fluffy mound of mashed potatoes drizzled in butter and gravy is undoubtedly delicious, but won’t do you any favors when trying to lose weight. You can still have your mash and eat it too when you swap out white potatoes for sweet potatoes. With potassium, Vitamin A and C, twice the amount of fiber as regular potatoes, and a bushel full of complex carbs, sweet potatoes make for a perfect side dish. Mash them up, cook them as wedges, or make French fries. Recent findings have also shown that there may be more nutritional benefits when you steam or boil sweet potatoes, so try out a few different methods and recipes.
6. Green Peas
“Finish your peas!” is a common refrain heard at dinner tables, and turns out Mom was right. Green peas are part of the legume family, which also includes lentils and various types of beans. Legumes are notoriously healthy and help control your weight, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. One cup of green peas is about 73 percent carbs, 23 percent protein, and 4 percent fat – and remember, these are the good kinds of fat and carbs. When buying or cooking with green peas, the fresher the better as both canned and frozen peas have added sodium. Aside from weight loss, eating peas has been shown to help prevent stomach cancer, boost immune systems, and prevent wrinkles, among other things.
Nicknamed “Nature’s Candy,” raisins have been a staple in trail mixes and kids’ lunch pails for decades. Containing fiber, potassium, and iron, raisins also pack about 34 grams of carbs in a single small box. They’re the perfect quick snack when you’re trying to lose weight. Raisins have numerous other health benefits, too. They’re rich with cancer-preventing antioxidants, help stabilize insulin spikes in diabetics, add calcium to promote bone strength, and more.
Remember, if you’re trying to lose weight, don’t avoid carbs altogether, just stick to the good ones. Avoid foods that have been processed and try to eat fresh to get the most nutrition and speed up your metabolism so you can reach your weight loss goals.