Carbohydrates are an important food group and are generally considered to be essential to optimum health. This is something that we have explored more extensively in a previous article. Today we are going to take a closer look at which foods are arguably the best carbohydrate sources for a healthy diet.
Typical dietary guidelines over the years have suggested that as much as 50% of food consumed in a day should be made up of carbohydrates. However, some experts have also made claims to connect carbohydrate consumption to obesity and type 2 diabetes. These experts suggest that carbohydrates should be eaten in moderation, and certainly shouldn't make up 50% of the diet.
There are good points to be heard on both sides of the carbohydrate debate, however, there is also much evidence to suggest that this is something that varies from person to person.
Before we take a closer look at what some of the best carbohydrates are for optimum health, it is worth looking at the three main categories that carbohydrates are split into. Those are fiber, starches, and sugars.
Although including carbohydrates in your diet is a good idea for an abundance of reasons, it is not actually required by the body to continue working. If you didn't eat any carbohydrates at all then you would still be able to function more or less the same as you do now!
- Fiber - It should be noted that humans can't actually digest fiber. However, the digestive system does benefit from an ample presence of fiber.
- Starches - Starches are made up of long chains of glucose molecules. These molecules are broken down by the digestive system to produce glucose.
- Sugars - There are many carbohydrates that can be found in foods as sugars, such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose.
Low Carb Diets
When exploring the benefits of going on a low-carb diet, it has to be said that this kind of food plan generally encourages an increased consumption of protein and fat.
Although low-fat diets have been a popular choice for the last few years, more and more people are exploring the advantages of cutting back on carbs. Several studies support the fact that a low-carb diet can aid weight loss, as well as improve levels of good cholesterol in the body. This is particularly the case for people who are considered to be obese, or have type 2 diabetes.
The primary role of carbohydrates is to provide energy. When they enter the body they will go through a process of being converted into energy. They also may be broken down and stored as fat, to be used as energy in the future.
As we explored in our previous article on the topic of carbohydrates, not all carbs are created equal. You may have heard people speak about good carbs and bad carbs, however, it's much more precise to think of them as whole or refined.
Whole carbs are those which are unprocessed and therefore contain all of the fiber that is naturally found within. Foods that would be labelled in this category include fruit, legumes, whole grains, and potatoes.
Including ample high fiber carbohydrates in your diet has been shown to improve metabolic health, as well as to decrease the risk of disease.
Refined carbohydrates will have gone through a production process, which removes most (if not all) of the fiber from the food. Foods that would be labelled in this category include white bread, pastries, sugary fizzy drinks, and white rice.
All vegetables are considered to be good carbohydrates, but some of them contain higher amounts than others. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are those that boast the highest carbohydrate count of all the vegetables. Beetroot, peas, tomtoes, corn and squash also have a relatively high carb count.
Adding seeds to your meals is a great way to up your intake of many essential nutrients, and the good news is that certain seeds are also healthy carbohydrates. Chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are arguably the best ones to pick.
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are also packed full of nutrients. Some food labelling can be misleading, causing people to believe that certain foods are whole grain when in fact they are not. Safe choices to make are quinoa, oats and brown rice.
Choosing Healthy Carbohydrates
Once you get into the swing of making healthy choices then you will continue to learn more and more about the foods that are going to support your health. You will begin to naturally know more about how your body reacts to certain foods, and which choices leave you feeling fantastic! Hopefully this new and improved sense of wellbeing will inspire you to continue making positive, healthy choices - both in regards to your diet and to your lifestyle.