Unless you are familiar with how Atkins works, when you hear “low carb” you think no bread, no pasta, no sugar and no alcohol. However, this would mean only those items are carbohydrates, and they are not. They are simply the type of carbs you shouldn’t be eating. In fact, most carbohydrates are good for you! Eating the right type of carbohydrates is extremely beneficial. They help lower cholesterol, produce feel-good chemicals in your brain, help with memory and alertness, not to mention they are a great energy source!
“Carbohydrates: any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods.” – Merriam-Webster.com
What this definition means is that carbohydrates come in many different forms. Lettuce is just as much a carb, by definition as is a slice of bread. The importance lies in whether foods are simple (processed) carbs or complex (whole) carbs and knowing which ones to avoid and which to use as a base for your diet.
Simple carbohydrates (processed): These are the bad guys. Sugars, syrups, alcohol, bread, pasta, kids cereals, candies, flour tortillas. These are the types of carbs you should keep to an absolute minimum. And when you do opt for them, always go for the less processed option. For example Ezekiel bread made with no flour and many whole grains instead of while bread, buckwheat noodles or whole grain pasta instead of the traditional pasta, corn tortillas instead of flour, granola instead of sugar-free cereal etcetera. And always in moderation. No more than 1 cup.
Complex carbohydrates (whole foods): The good guys! Whole grains like quinoa, barley, millet, wild rice and the like are carbohydrates, but are a better option than processed ones because they are, well, whole. Your body has to process them itself so you burn more calories from them, absorb more nutrients, get a ton of fiber through your system and none of the additives they put in packaged foods! But, watch your portions. They are an energy powerhouse so keep whole grain consumption to 1 cup of cooked grains (around 200 cals.) or less per meal. Also, you can always substitute breads and pastas for whole grains instead!
The other foods most people don’t think of when they hear “carbohydrate” are fruits and vegetables. Yes, they are carbs too! And you’re not cutting those out, right? They have fewer calories than grains do but have a higher water content so you can eat way more of them and fill nice and full.
Beans, lentils and other legumes are also carbs! These, however, also pack a good amount of protein, and when combined with grains, they can substitute protein from animal sources altogether! They can have around the same amount of calories per cup as grains though, so again, watch the portion size and keep it within a cup of cooked beans or lentils or less.
So there you go. Going “no carb” is a no-no. You need carbs to be healthy but you need the right kind. But “low-carb” is a misnomer. You should avoid simple carbs like candies, pasta, bread, etcetera as much as possible and substitute them with complex carbs. And make sure to consume complex carbs like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables daily. Avoiding breads and pastas won’t be too difficult since eating whole grains will fulfill your cravings for them since they are filling and go great paired up with foods with sauces and such! And sweet fruits are a great substitute for candies!
So you’re not really going “low-carb” at all! You’re actually eating lots of carbs but only the right kinds.
To see how yummy healthy carbs can be, try out this delicious, carb-filled Avocado Kale Salad! It has quinoa as its protein source since it is a whole protein on its own. If you don’t want quinoa, you can also try a 1/4 cup of any other grain plus 1/4 of beans or lentils!
Now go enjoy some good carbs!