Carbohydrates don't have the best reputation. They're what I like to call “unfad”—people are hesitant and sometimes embarrassed to include carbs in their diet. The consumption of carbohydrates is usually followed by guilt, remorse, and heavy-hearted confessions. “I had half a banana today” or “I just couldn’t resist a warm slice of toast with breakfast this morning...” With the increasing popularity of low carb and carb-free diets in the media, it's no wonder people are getting the idea that carbohydrates will wreak havoc on their bodies!
This takes me back to the 90s when the term “fat-free” gained its popularity. People were afraid of fat, so they eliminated it from their diets altogether. This led to a number of health issues, including loss of hair, loss of energy, weight gain, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and even dry skin. So what will eliminating carbohydrates from our diets do to us in the next few years? Athletes are already unable to complete training sessions and children complain about “fuzzy thinking” at school. Adults increasingly are finding themselves in a constant state of hunger throughout the day.
Our bodies actually need carbohydrates because they provide us with energy. However, not all carbohydrates are the same. Consuming too many processed carbs is not good for your health since they don't support optimal brain function or weight loss efforts. The best carbohydrates for your body are those that are complex in nature, called complex carbs. They are great sources of energy and nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and water.
Here is a list of my favorite energy-boosting, nutrient-rich carbohydrates:
- All potatoes (white, russet, red, yellow, purple, fingerling, and petite)
- Sweet potatoes and yams
- Fruits (especially bananas)
- All vegetables (most are low in carbs, except for the winter squash family, which includes butternut squash and acorn squash)
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains (oats, bulgur wheat, quinoa, barley, brown rice, and more)
As long as you are eating natural whole foods, you have nothing to fear! Whole foods contain nutrients that your body needs for optimal health and you can find some of these nutrients in complex carbohydrates. Carbs processed in factories, including chips, crackers, cookies, cakes, etc., should be consumed in minimal amounts.
When it comes down to it, you shouldn't feel guilty enjoying whole food carbs! Enjoying them as part of a balanced diet will keep you full and provide you with all the energy and nutrients you need!