By now, you’ve probably heard that carbs aren’t the enemy when you’re focused on managing your weight, keeping your blood sugar stable, or trying to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle. Gone are the days when we had to replace lettuce with bread on our sandwiches or skip that delicious bowl of pasta. Instead, choosing the right carbs is the ticket to reaching your health goals and meeting your body’s needs.
Illustrated recipe: Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl
Why do we need carbohydrates?
Before figuring out which carbs we should fill our plates with, it’s important to understand why we need carbs in the first place. Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the body’s preferred fuel source. Not having enough carbs in your diet can cause you to feel sluggish, have digestive issues, and even have bad breath. Additionally, avoiding carbs may leave you with specific nutritional gaps, as data shows that people on certain low-carb diets may not be getting enough thiamin, vitamin C, folate, and other nutrients. keys.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that’s touted for its health benefits, and that’s partly because it’s not fully digestible. Instead, fiber passes through the digestive system and helps maintain regular bowel movements, promotes satiety, and supports a healthy gut microbiome and heart.
How do you choose the best carbs?
When people think of sources of carbs, images of extra-large pizzas, oversized scoops of ice cream, and gigantic bags of potato chips may come to mind. And while a reasonable portion of these carb choices can certainly be part of a healthy, balanced diet, they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your day’s carbs.
In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025) recommends that 45-65% of their total daily calories come from carbohydrates for most Americans. So if you’re eating around 2,000 calories a day, that would suggest an intake of 225-325 grams of carbs per day.
Carbohydrates like whole grains, fortified grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, beans, and legumes are higher in fiber and nutrients than more refined carbohydrate sources or highly processed foods. But the occasional treat of refined carbs and added sugars can still be part of your regimen, just consider how it fits into the rest of your day.
It is recommended that whole grains make up at least half of total grain consumption, as they are an excellent source of fiber, protein, antioxidants and B vitamins.
10 carbs you should eat every week
From the wide variety of carb choices, here are 10 that should be on your plate every week to help you stay healthy, meet your nutritional needs, and maintain your energy levels.
1. Sweet potatoes
The naturally sweet potatoes that many of us love to see on our Thanksgiving table are a nutritional powerhouse. Just one medium-sized sweet potato provides over 150% of your daily vitamin A needs, a nutrient that plays an important role in the health of our skin, immune system and eyes. Eating the skin of your sweet potato can also help increase your fiber intake.
Sweet potatoes make a nutritious and delicious side dish, but these potatoes don’t need to be confined to dinnertime. Try topping a sweet potato with nut butter, cinnamon, and granola for a hearty breakfast. Or use it as an ingredient in sweet potato macaroni and cheese or sweet potato quesadillas for a filling and flavorful lunch.
2. Dairy Milk
Having a glass of iced milk might seem like an old-school recommendation, but there’s something to be said for including this popular drink in your diet. Not only does milk contain healthy carbs, but it also contains protein, calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that are important for supporting our bone health.
If your stomach is sensitive to the natural sugar in milk called lactose, lactose-free milk options can help fill that void.
Try milk in something sweet like our Kale Banana Smoothie or something savory like our Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Roasted Chicken.
3. Black beans
Black beans, or any bean for that matter, have an impressive nutritional profile. As a source of plant-based protein, fiber and antioxidants, these economical and delicious legumes can be a fantastic carb to add to your plate. Try them in recipes like our No-Bake Black Bean Salad and Black Bean & Quinoa Bowls.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that cannot be digested by humans, but instead acts as fuel for the good bacteria that live in our gut. Oats are a natural source of prebiotic fiber, making them a fantastic carbohydrate source for those who want to support a healthy gut microbiome.
The soluble fiber found in oats, called beta-glucan, has also been shown to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Cinnamon Overnight Oatmeal and Banana Oatmeal Muffins are simple recipes that can help you include more oats in your diet.
You can think of prunes as an old-fashioned laxative home remedy or as a staple for people who have trouble going to the bathroom. And while it’s true that eating prunes can help promote healthy bowel movements, this natural source of carbs is more than a cure for constipation.
Eating prunes every day can also help people improve their bone health. According to data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritiona daily dose of 50 grams of prunes (about 5 prunes) can prevent loss of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
Try sokolatakia (nut-stuffed prunes dipped in chocolate) or braised brisket with carrots and prunes to up your intake.
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world, thanks to their convenience, price and delicious taste. Like most fruits, bananas are a healthy source of carbohydrates and eating them can help keep you energized throughout the day.
Opting for a slightly underripe banana can give you an edge in the gut health department. Choosing bananas with slightly green skin means they will have more resistant starch, which is a type of prebiotic fiber that helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome. But ripe bananas are also an excellent source of fiber and nutrients.
Bananas can be enjoyed on their own as an easy and filling snack. But if you want to get creative, try making our Banana Energy Bites or our 2-Ingredient Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream.
Apples may be one of the best carbs to include in your diet, especially if you’re eating the skin. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and copper. These popular fruits also contain soluble fiber and heart-healthy prebiotic fiber that can help support gut health. Apples also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may support brain health.
Try our Chopped Salad with Shrimp, Apples and Pecans or Potato Chips for a unique way to use up succulent fruit.
Farro is an ancient whole grain that goes well with many dishes. Packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, farro offers a complex, nutty taste and is simple to prepare.
To enjoy farro in your diet, try our 3-Ingredient Farro Bowl with Roasted Chicken or Cherry Almond Farro Salad.
If you are a hummus lover then this will be music to your ears. Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are a source of healthy carbs that fuel your body with fiber, antioxidants, and plant-based protein. Whether canned or dried and prepared at home, these little morsels are a filling and satisfying addition to help you hit your carb quota.
Try them in our quick and easy spinach and chickpea recipe or in our super tasty roasted beet hummus.
10. Brown Rice
Rice has gotten a bad rap over the years, but all varieties of rice can provide some truly impressive nutrients. Rice contains satiating protein, fiber and many vitamins and minerals. Half a cup of cooked brown rice has about 120 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 25 grams of healthy carbs. Bowl of rice for something simple, filling and nutritious.
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