You have probably heard someone say they are “watching their carbs” or “not eating carbs”, but what does that really mean? Carbohydrates (or “carbs”) along with proteins and fats, are a major nutrient that gives our bodies energy. Carbohydrates include breads, pastas, cereals, rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Baked goods, syrups, soft drinks, and candy are carbohydrates as well.
Cutting out processed foods and refined carbohydrates could help to reach a healthier weight but our bodies need some carbohydrates to stay healthy.
The media has created a lot of confusion around carbs, but it’s actually pretty simple. Most of the carbohydrates we eat come in one of two forms: simple or complex.
Simple carbohydrates include candy, sugary drinks, baked goods, syrups, white bread, and white pastas. These foods break down easily and are stored as sugar in the body. If we eat too many of these simple carbohydrates it could lead to weight gain.
Complex carbohydrates include whole grain pastas, whole wheat breads, vegetables, dairy, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits. These foods take longer to break down and give us energy. Unlike simple carbohydrates, these healthier carbs contain fiber and can help you to maintain your weight more easily. Fiber can also keep you feeling full for longer and improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
So the next time you consider “cutting your carbs”, try including “complex” carbs such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, beans, and oats into your diet instead.
Here is a sample dinner menu for getting complex carbohydrates in your diet:
- 5 ounces grilled chicken breast
- 1 cup spinach salad
- 1 baked sweet potato
- 1 whole wheat dinner roll
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
Here’s to happy and healthy eating!
-Logan, EFNEP student employee