Your Next Grocery List of Healthy Carbs
The term "carbs" has been thrown around loosely. However, going without carbohydrates does not necessarily translate into good health. Don't forget to take the "good carb list" on your next grocery store visit!
The term "carbs" is thrown around way too loosely and casually. "Carb-free, "low-carb," and "no carbs" are just a few common examples that entice the general public. However, going without carbohydrates does not necessarily translate into good health. Don't forget to take the "good carb list" on your next grocery store visit!
What Foods Are Considered Carbs?
Bread, rice, yogurt, apples, cookies, broccoli, potatoes... Although those food products appear to have nothing in common, they are all considered carb sources. From taste, to digestion, to nutritional profile, carb sources can have quite the differences. Carb sources consist of:
Also known as complex carbs, starches are generally what people think of when hearing "carbs." From grains to potatoes, complex carbs certainly can have a spot in a healthy diet. They are largely packed with fiber along with essential B vitamins and further vitamins and minerals.
All fruits and fruit juices are considered a carb source. Juice essentially offers no more than natural and potential added sugars, as the juicing process strips away fiber along with beneficial nutrients. Choose whole fruits and limit juice intake to reap the most benefits fruit has to offer.
Milk and Dairy Products
All cow's milk (whole, skim, low-fat, etc.) contains carbohydrate, specifically identified as lactose. Derived products from milk, such as yogurt and cheese, are also carb sources and naturally offer protein and fat as well.
Though some vegetables are considered to be a "starch" - including potatoes, corn, and zucchini - other vegetables are lower in carbs and calories. And unlike fruits, some vegetable sources can provide a modest amount of protein.
Sweets and Desserts
The taste of sweet treats is mostly attributed to processed or refined sugars. Refined sugar is simple sugar, in its most stripped down form, and commonly associated with weight gain and diabetes. Although sweets can fit into a balanced diet, their intake should be limited and kept to a single, portioned serving.
Your List of Healthy, Good Carbs
1. Whole Grains
Whole grain is an umbrella term that embodies a wide variety of cereal grains including wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, millet, rye, and barley along with whole-grain breads, cereals, and flours. Whole grains provide essential B vitamins and minerals along with significant amounts of fiber.
Also a whole grain, those kernels get a lot of bang for their buck. Without added butters and oils, three and a half cups of popcorn is only 110 calories. Popcorn is also an excellent fiber source to snack on!
Beans are known for their high fiber content. But they are also a great protein source, especially for individuals who cut or reduce animal meats from their diet. Throw in salads, add in casseroles and soups, or prepare as a side dish to naturally increase fiber and protein intake!
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a vegetarian and vegan-friendly protein source. They also offer generous amounts of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals including folate, zinc, and iron. Roast chickpeas for a crunchy snack or blend into hummus.
Bone-strengthening milk and dairy products contain the natural-occurring sugar known as lactose. But beyond lactose and calcium content, milk is also an excellent source of protein and a natural, convenient option following a workout.
When looking for a yogurt, try choosing a Greek yogurt absent of added sugars but high in protein. Take advantage of the versatility of plain Greek yogurt - mix in smoothies, add fresh fruit, top on oatmeal, substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise, blend with soups, the options are endless!
Apples offer both soluble and insoluble fibers that promote heart and digestive health. For a complete well-balanced snack, dip apple slices in protein-packed Greek yogurt and peanut butter!
Bananas are known for their notorious potassium content, contributing to heart health and lowered risks of high blood pressure and stroke. The high fiber content is further associated with heart health along with managing diabetes and weight. Bland foods, such as bananas, are also recommended to treat diarrhea.
Naturally sweetened berries are far from delicate when it comes to health, as they are antioxidant powerhouses. Though all berries provide fiber, raspberries provide the most and offer 8 grams per one cup!
No matter how you say tomato, this red or green berry-type fruit is packed with antioxidants. Lycopene, the bright red pigment providing tomatoes its color, may be protective against cancer, heart disease, and inflammation.
Like tomatoes, watermelon also contains promising levels of lycopene. Since watermelon is about 92 percent water, its name is an obvious fit! The high water content is a sufficient way to keep hydrated and quench thirst on warm days.
12. Bell Peppers
Green, red, yellow, and orange - four out of the seven colors of the rainbow. The bold colors of bell peppers offer more than visual appeal, but powerful nutrients to the body. They are extremely versatile and can be snacked on in their raw form or cooked into main meals or side dishes.
Carrots are popularly known for their high vitamin A content, promoting good vision. But they also offer fiber, antioxidants, and additional vitamins and minerals. Pack carrot sticks as a snack or throw chopped carrots into salads, casseroles, or soups!
Though it is said to limit foods absent of color, there is always an exception to the rule. Cauliflower, though lacking a vibrant color, is not deficient in essential nutrients. It is an excellent source vitamins C, K, and B6 as well as folate and pantothenic acid!
15. Green, Leafy Vegetables
Salads stay in the "recommended meal" category for a reason - those leafy greens are so well respected in the body. They offer an extensive amount of nutrients and fiber all while staying low in calories.
Don't wait till the fall season for this healthy carb option! Pumpkin is packed with vitamins A and C along with generous amounts of fiber. Add to oatmeal, smoothies, and baked goods. Also, don't forget about the pumpkin seeds, as they are also packed with fiber!
17. Sweet Potatoes
Though considered to be "sweet," these naturally-sweetened potatoes are nonetheless nutritious - offering fiber, some B vitamins, and over 300 percent of vitamin A's daily need!
18. Spaghetti Squash
Swap out a heavy bowl of white pasta noodles with the flesh of spaghetti squash! Unlike traditional pasta, spaghetti squash is low in carb and offers an extensive amount of nutrients. But like any pasta, toss the noodle-like squash in olive oil, pesto sauce, fresh tomato sauce, or other favorite flavor combos!
Though the good carb list above is an excellent start, there are certainly more good carb options. As a general rule, go for color. In the absence of a nutrition label, good and low-carb options are commonly vibrant to the eyes and packed with nutrients. However, do not feel compelled to shy away from bland colored, but protein-rich dairy products and nutritious cauliflower!