Carbohydrates are not evil. They provide quick-burning energy to our cells and help combat stress. We need them, in some form or another, to function properly. It’s important to know, though, that not all carbohydrates are created equally. Refined, artificial and highly processed carbohydrates, including things like flours and potato chips, are the savory equivalent of eating pure sugar: empty calories and energetically unbalancing. Overall, carbohydrates are essential for everyone: it’s just a case of finding the unique cocktail of carbs for your body and ensuring you’re working in a variety of good-for-you options.
The Best Carbs for Our Body
When it comes to choosing carbohydrates, whole, fiber-filled foods are our best bet. Fiber slows the breakdown of starches in the body, which means your blood sugar can stay on a more even keel, leading to fewer spikes in insulin and less encouragement for the body to store fat. Insulin promotes fat storage, so the higher the sugar or starch content of a food, the more insulin your body needs to combat it. The more insulin in the body, the more likely we are to store fat.) Just another reason to pay attention to the carbohydrates we choose to take in.
In many grain products, the fiber, bran and germ have been removed: what’s left are sticky, sugary starches that spike blood sugar, providing limited nutrients and little else to the body. You are better off eating whole, unprocessed grains – think barley, oats, brown rice, or kamut – than flours, and avoiding refined grains altogether. (A hint: if it says ‘enriched’ on the label, it means something was synthetically added to make the product more nutritious…. because something was taken away.)
For Those Sensitive to Grains:
But what happens if you’re sensitive to grains, either due to gluten intolerance or your body’s issue with specific carbohydrates? Luckily, we can find ample carbohydrates in everything from beans to nuts to vegetables, which means you can meet your body’s daily carbohydrate needs without resorting to four bagels, a croissant, six cookies and a couple of sandwiches. (Your blood sugar and your waistline will thank you!) Not only that, but consider what Virginia Messina, RD addresses in Why You Should Try a Low-Carb Vegan Diet, which is that vegetables, legumes, beans, and even some nuts and seeds contain plenty of carbs on their own, without us even having to add any from denser sources such as grains or refined grains.
Here’s How to Work a Variety of Healthy Carbs Into Your Diet:
1. Emphasize legumes and beans over grains.
If you’re looking for a side dish, consider black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, or other beans in place of rice or pasta. Not only do they provide valuable minerals like copper and iron, they’re cchock full of fiber, protein, and lasting carbohydrate energy.
2. Choose higher-carbohydrate nuts, because nuts are more than just fat!
Chestnuts and pistachios, in particular, with 10.5 and 5.8 grams of net carbs respectively, are great options. Work them into salads, trail mixes or stir-fries for a little extra punch of carbohydrate and nourishing fats. Thanks for combining those so conveniently, nature! These Pistachio Sesame Seed Balls are the perfect combination – and packed with energizing carbs.
3. Make friends with root vegetables.
Sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, and onions all bring a boatload of nourishing carbohydrates to the table, with that little bit of sweetness that comes with the breakdown of starches. Summer and winter squash are also terrific options. Their high-fiber content means they break down slowly in the body, so you stay fuller for longer.
Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage are hearty, fiber-packed veggies that also supply a steady supply of energy. Combine these with a fat, like olive or coconut oil, to get the most of your veggie experience. A great tool for finding filling recipes using these ingredients is through the Food Monster App, food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more.
5. Pseudo-grains are super-awesome.
Quinoa, amaranth, and millet are actually high-carbohydrate seeds that yield more protein, more omega fatty acids, and more nutrients than other grains. They are lower on the glycemic index and can provide ample energy in the form of a side dish, main or snack. We love making them in a batch and having a scoop or two handy anytime we need. Try this Quinoa With Black Bean and Lime Salad.
Aim to include a carbohydrate – especially in the form of a veggie – at every meal. Thanks to nature’s convenient combining, you’ll get an extra hit of nutrients and lasting energy, without the spike in blood sugar. Everyone wins, especially your pancreas.
If you enjoy articles like this and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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