Who isn’t happy that the war on carbs is finally over?! I don’t know about you, but I’m happy we’re finally waking up and realizing carbs aren’t the enemy. Your brain’s primary source of fuel is from glucose and glucose comes predominantly from carbs. To think you can’t or shouldn’t eat carbs goes against much of the research which indicates our bodies were designed to consume both protein sources and carbohydrate sources. With that said, there are some carbs that no one should be eating regardless of the kind of diet they follow:
Refined Carbohydrates: The Bad Stuff You Love to Hate (Or is it Hate to Love?)
When following a plant-based diet, it’s normal for carbs to play a large part of your meals. But this doesn’t give you license to pig out on white bread and peanut butter or Oreos and almond milk (yes, Oreos are technically vegan). Avoid carbohydrates with any of these characteristics:
- Words like ‘refined’ or ‘enriched’ in its ingredients list. These words indicate the grain has been stripped of all its fiber and nutrients. While whole grains can be a very rich source of magnesium, B vitamins, and other trace minerals, refined carbohydrates have almost none of these vitamins and minerals in their nutritional profile.
- Added sugar. There’s no reason for sugar to be in your bread, pasta, or rice! Sugar is simply added to make your refined carb taste better and even be more addictive. Food companies tend to be tricky, however, and might often use other code names for sugar like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin to name a few.
- Ingredients you cannot pronounce. Forgive me for paraphrasing, by Michael Pollan has a food rule where if a third grader can’t pronounce an ingredient, you shouldn’t be eating it. Refined carbohydrates like cookies, cakes, and crackers usually have all sorts of random ingredients that are used to mask certain aftertastes and prolong shelf-life. These are not natural ingredients and they don’t belong in your body.
- Anything in a box or bag. In case you haven’t gotten the message, refined carbohydrates are usually processed foods. Even the whole processes of refining is just that—a process. Avoid snack foods and other carb-based products that come in boxes or bags. You’re totally fooling yourself with those crackers you love with your vegan tomato soup are healthy.
Whole Grain and Plant-Based Carbohydrates: The Good Stuff to Nourish Your Body
If donuts, cookies, and potato chips are off the list, what’s a vegan eater to eat? There are plenty of natural, nutrient-dense, and fiber-rich carbohydrates you can eat on the reg that don’t just taste good, but are good for you!
- Ancient grains. Surely you’ve heard about grains like quinoa, millet, and black rice by now. These grains are loaded with protein, magnesium, and other phytochemicals that are essential for good health. When possible, purchase these exotic grains organic to reap even more health benefits.
- Whole grain/sprouted grain bread. Whole grain bread can easily create a hearty and satisfying sandwich at lunch or be the quick fuel you need to get your day started in the morning. Look for brands that list ‘whole wheat flour’ as the first ingredient. If you notice bread makes your energy crash soon after eating it, try sprouted grain bread. It has a much lower glycemic index, meaning your insulin levels won’t rise and fall as rapidly. And for all you gluten-free vegans out there, don’t forget about millet bread and other gluten-free varieties. You can usually find these in the freezer section of your grocery or health food store.
- Beans and legumes. Beans and legumes are full of fiber, loaded with protein, and can easily be the shining star of any vegan meal. Buying them canned is super convenient when you’re pressed on time, just make sure you rinse them to get rid of excess sodium. Better yet, buy dried organic beans that you can soak while you’re at the office, then simmer in 30 minutes for a hearty dinner in no time.
- Fruit (fresh or frozen). Fruit is often an overlooked source of carbs in a plant-based diet. Nevertheless, it’s still a great source of healthy carbs. Loaded with vitamins, fiber, fruits are also very hydrating and cleansing for the body. Go organic when you can.
- Root vegetables. Gone are the days of saying no to potatoes! Even white potatoes are loaded with vitamins A and C. Don’t be afraid of trying different colors like bright orange sweet potatoes or my personal favorite, purple potatoes!
With all the carb confusion going on these days, it can be difficult to determine which kinds of carbs you should enjoy and which you should avoid. As long as you consume whole grain and unrefined carbohydrates, you should be in the clear!
Image source: How to Eat Gluten Free Before 6