6 'Smart' Carbs You Need to Be Eating

6 'Smart' Carbs You Need to Be Eating

Low-carb diets may be all the rage, but these powerhouse complex carbs are must-haves!

By Maressa Brown

Ever since low-carb diets became all the rage, we’ve been a bit freaked out by carbohydrates. Maybe it’s not necessarily calories we need to count, but carbs, we’ve thought. But not all carbs are equal! And no healthy diet would be complete without them: Not only do the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbs make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories, but experts agree that extreme low-carb diets tax and stress the body.

Of course, some carbohydrates are “smarter” than others: Think complex, unprocessed carbohydrates (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) vs. those that are refined and processed (like white bread and cookies). Complex carbs can actually help you control your weight, thanks to their bulk and fiber content, which can help you feel full on fewer calories, notes the Mayo Clinic. Here, six “smart” carb sources that work for you, instead of against you.

1. Sweet potatoes: Full of vitamin A, folate, and a plethora of other good-for-you minerals, sweet potatoes are known as a power food, partly thanks to their stores of fiber. They’re also low-glycemic, releasing sugar into the bloodstream slowly. The combo enhances satiety and keeps blood sugar levels stable. In turn, research has shown the root veggie may actually help prevent conditions like insulin resistance and diabetes.

2. Quinoa: The trendy super-seed (yes, it’s technically a seed, although nutritionists tend to treat it as a whole grain) boasts 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup, so it’s no wonder it’s so highly recommended! In addition to boosting satisfaction with those impressive stats, quinoa is bursting with anti-inflammatory and anti-viral quercetin.

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3. Apples: Instead of pairing crackers or bread with cheese, consider a whole apple. The fruit has 4 grams of soluble fiber per medium apple and is a great source of immune-boosting vitamin C. Plus, a recent study out of Florida State University found that a cup of dried apples a day helped women lose weight and lower their cholesterol and heart disease markers.

4. Beans and legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are generally low in fat, have no cholesterol, and are also packed with folate, iron, and magnesium. You’ve also probably heard that they’re full of soluble fiber (effective at balancing blood sugar), insoluble fiber (which expedites waste removal), and protein, which all work to help you stick to a healthy portion and keep appetite in check. You can even sub in beans for meat -- and they’ll keep you just as full!

5. Oatmeal: A prime example of a whole grain, oats are full of fulfilling fiber. The proof is in the science: Researchers from Australia found eating oatmeal was associated with more appetite control, while researchers in Chicago found it can improve insulin sensitivity. No wonder eating oatmeal is thought to help with weight loss and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes!

6. Buckwheat: Like quinoa, buckwheat is often mistaken for a grain, but it’s really a seed. It is most commonly used in soba noodles, or its groats can be steamed in stock with onions, olive oil, and fresh parsley. Experts say it’s better than rice, wheat, and corn, because it is low-glycemic and has more protein than other options. It’s also high in cholesterol-lowering essential amino acids lysine and arginine. Bonus: It’s also gluten-free!

How do you like to prepare your favorite smart carbs?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/OcusFocus

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