Choosing Healthy Carbs for Weight Loss
Carbs are often seen as the biggest enemy when it comes to weight loss. They are said to be high in calories and slow down the process of weight loss. No wonder that carbs are one of the first foods that are erased when someone starts a diet. But are carbs really that bad? After all, carbs are a great source of energy and keep you full.
It is not necessarily the carbs that make you stuck at your weight. Any food eaten in the wrong quantity can limit you in losing weight. It is about the amount you are eating and there is no exception with carbs. Therefore, carbs are a healthier addition to your diet than you might think. Here are some facts and tips that might convince you to change your mind and will help you to choose healthy carbs.
What are carbs?
Generally speaking, carbs, or ‘carbohydrates’, are sugars, starches and fibers mostly found in fruits, grains, veggies and milk products. As macronutrients, carbs are one of the three most rich sources of energy or calories for our body. Your muscles and central nervous system need the energy provided by carbs in order to maintain a healthy body. The American Diabetes Association notes that carbs are the main source of energy.1 Your body uses carbs to produce glucose, which is energy that is either immediately used or stored. It is important to know that there are two kinds of carbs: simple and complex ones.
Simple vs. complex carbs
The difference between simple and complex carbs lies in their chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested. According to the National Institutes of Health, simple carbs are absorbed more quickly than complex carbs.
Simple carbs consist of one or two sugars and are naturally found in fruits, veggies or milk products. They are also found in processed foods such as candy, cookies, and sodas. Those processed foods contain refined sugars and are not good to be incorporated in a diet that has the goal of weight loss. These so-called ‘empty calories’ do no good to your diet and can even lead to weight gain. It is important to choose the ‘better’ simple carbs coming from fruits, veggies and milk products. They can be beneficial as they contain vitamins, minerals or fiber. Simple carbs lead to a brief high sugar level in the body because they are digested quicker than complex ones they end in a rapid decrease of your sugar level. If you want to eat less simple carbs avoid corn syrup, dextrose, brown sugar, or malt syrup.2
Complex carbs contain three or more sugars and are often referred to as foods that are high in starch such as peas, beans, lentils, whole-grain bread, and oats. In order to use the energy that these carbs contain, your body has to digest them. Complex carbs provide a more sustained energy that keeps you efficient and full longer. Accordingly, they make a great addition to your diet.
Which carbs are good for me?
Researchers found that the slimmer people are the ones that eat the most carbs. They recommend consuming 64 percent of your daily food in carbs.3 As mentioned above, many carbs are great for a full feeling and therefore, great as appetite suppressants. They are more filling than protein or fat and are digested more slowly. The consequence is a lasting feeling of fullness. You have fewer cravings and feel more satisfied as fiber and starch fills you up and satisfies your cravings. Studies showed that people on a low-carb diet crave a lot and the shift to a starchy, high fiber diet erased those cravings. The reason can be found in the satiety hormones carbs contain, which satisfy hunger and boost metabolism.3
When trying to incorporate more healthy carbs into your diet it is important to choose the right ones. Look for complex carbs or try to replace simple carbs. Here is a quick overview:
- Replace white rice with brown rice and add a combination of either beans, corn or other high resistant starch foods. Your blood sugar will stay more balanced when combining those.
- Barley is high in fiber and has been linked to lower cholesterol.
- Replace white pasta with whole-wheat pasta.
- Acorn Squash serves you with a third of the day’s fiber and is high in vitamin C, making it a great complex carb to add to your diet
- Legumes, such as green peas, are rich in fiber and aid weight loss.
- Black beans boost your brain power and are rich in fiber and protein.
- Quinoa has the highest protein amount of all grains and contains a lot of fiber and vitamin B.
How to incorporate healthy carbs into your diet
The individual need of carbs is dependent on many factors and is, therefore, hard to define.4 People who are more physically active need more carbs than those who are less active. To maintain weight it is recommended to eat about 100-150 grams of carbs a day. If you are more of a carb sensitive person or want to lose weight effortlessly, while still satisfying cravings, an amount around 50-100 grams of carbs a day is a good number.
Try to incorporate more natural and unprocessed foods into your diet as they keep you full longer. Choose meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and potatoes to feel satisfied. Drink unsweetened or only lightly sweetened coffee, tea and of course lots of water and avoid sugary drinks. Chocolate and alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation. If you crave a little snack munch on a piece of fruit, carrots, hardboiled eggs, or a handful of nuts.
How to plan a day with healthy carbs
If you need a little inspiration on recipes to master a full day of healthy carbs, here are a few of our favorite recipes:
Breakfast: Start your day with 17 grams of carbs. Try these deliciously poached eggs and add a slice of whole wheat bread.
Lunch: Try this filling mix of quinoa and beans and be satisfied throughout the day with 40 grams of carbs.
Dinner: Finish your day with a bowl of this delicious soup and have 52 grams of carbs.
With a total of 109 grams of carbs, you will feel satisfied throughout the day and escape the trap of uncontrollable cravings.
- Szalay, Jessie. "What Are Carbohydrates?" LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 25 Aug. 2015. Web.
- Li, Rhea. "What Are Carbs? How They Work (and How to Get Them to Work for You) / Nutrition / Calories." Fit Day. FitDay, n.d. Web.
- "8 Reasons Why Carbs Help You Lose Weight." Health.com. Health Media Ventures, n.d. Web.
- Gunnars, Kris, BSc. "How Many Carbs Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?" Authority Nutrition. Authority Nutrition, 18 Aug. 2016. Web.