We often association the word carbohydrate with bread, pasta, potato chips and all things unhealthy, but carbs are essential to a healthy diet and our body’s main source of energy. Many studies, including research from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shows that the dietary fiber (a type of carbohydrate) found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables is necessary to maintain a normal weight and healthy heart.
What are carbs?
Simply put, carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Because they are a macronutrient, carbs are one of the three main ways that your body obtains energy, or calories.
Whole vs. Refined Carbs
Not all carbs are bad for you. In fact, some are extremely beneficial to your heart health. The nutritional value is determined by defining the two different types of carbohydrates — whole and refined, or more commonly referred to as simple and complex. While refined carbs like white bread, pastries, sugar-sweetened beverages and other items made with white flour are generally linked to obesity and metabolic diseases, unprocessed, whole carbs like barley, vegetables, legumes and potatoes have a plethora of health benefits. Here are five different sources of carbohydrates that are good for your heart and overall health.
These tasty spuds are rich in complex carbohydrates and simple starches, a great natural way to get your source of carbs. Packed with potassium, vitamin A and fiber, sweet potatoes are a great substitute for traditional white potatoes because their taste is nearly identical. Mashed, baked or cut into fries, they’re a versatile snack to pair with veggies and a burger.
Whether kidney, lima, pinto or black, beans deserve a seat at the table. In addition to being naturally low in fat, high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, beans are a protein powerhouse — just one cup of pinto beans provides 41 grams of protein. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some dry beans and try cooking them yourself versus using canned beans. Maybe include a link to a good recipe?
In recent years, quinoa has transitioned from a superfood trend to a supermarket staple and rightfully so. High in protein and fiber and containing the nine essential amino acids that your body needs, quinoa is one of the best non-animal food sources of complete protein. It is also a nutritional dynamo, packed with manganese, copper and other vitamins and minerals. Paired with fish, chicken or vegetables and topped with a bit of lemon juice, a hearty helping of quinoa makes the perfect addition to a healthy dinner.
Chia seeds are a low-carb friendly food, packed with calcium, protein and fiber. In fact, just one ounce of chia seeds contains nearly 17 percent of your daily value of calcium. Along with their nutritional value, chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which can aid in skin repair and help prevent skin from aging. Incorporate these crunchy seeds into your diet by sprinkling some on your morning yogurt or toast or blend them into a tasty smoothie.
Whole grain bread
Believe it or not, some bread is actually good for you! While white bread is made with wheat flour and doesn’t contain nearly as many nutrients as whole grain bread, 100 percent whole grain bread is packed with protein, fiber and vitamin B-6.
The key to eating bread is portion control. Try this: Instead of making sandwiches with two slices of bread, try making an open-faced sandwich with one slice of whole grain bread, topping it with your favorite protein and vegetables. The whole grain bread will also help keep you full for longer!
Not giving your body enough carbs can have a direct effect on your health and central nervous system, potentially leading to dizziness, mental and/or physical weakness, low blood sugar or insufficient fiber that can cause digestive problems and constipation. Try incorporating some of these healthier carbohydrates into your everyday diet to keep you energized and healthy.
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