Here’s a list of 5 foods you can eat to increase your intake of healthy carbs.
We’ve all heard at least once before that carb is bad for us. We’ve been told to avoid them, cut them out of our diet, and even restrict them. Far too often we hear extreme examples of carb consumption like no-carb or low-carb diets, both of which have no middle ground, little flexibility, and limited longevity.
Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, increased energy or even improved health outcomes, society has to lead us to believe that removing carbs from the equation is the solution to it all.
Yet the science says otherwise. We can, and should consume carbs! When it comes to weight loss, muscle gain increased energy, and improved health outcomes, healthy carbs play a vital role that should not be ignored.
Keep reading to learn more about healthy carbs, why we need them, and how to properly consume them to help you reach your goals!
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
First and foremost — there is no such thing as good carbs vs. bad carbs!
Food intake is not a moral matter, and we therefore cannot assign morality to food. Food is meant to nourish our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
In reality, food is just-food. It really is as simple is that.
In addition, “healthy” can mean so many different things, so for the sake of this article as we reference “healthy carbs” we’re addressing and calling out the carbohydrates that support long-term physical health.
Nutrient Density of Carbs
Nutritionally speaking, some carbs are more nutrient-dense than others. Simply meaning they contain more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. These carbs are commonly referred to as healthy carbs because they contribute to your health.
Carbs that lack nutrient density are generally refined carbs. These are the carbohydrates that essentially go through a few more steps after they’re harvested and before they reach your plate. These additional steps of processing often strip the original carbohydrate source of some of its fiber, complexity, and nutrient value.
The nutrient-dense or, “healthy” carbohydrates are what we refer to as starchy and non-starchy carbohydrates within the Foundational Five formula.
Why Our Bodies Need Carbohydrates
It all comes down to energy and fiber.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred, primary source of energy. Whether immediate or stored energy, carbohydrates are involved in propelling and creating it all.
All healthy carbs, whether starchy or non-starchy, contain natural sources of soluble or insoluble fiber that contribute to our health and wellbeing.
Provides Immediate Energy
Carbohydrates provide us with the immediate energy we need throughout the day to perform our regular tasks with ease.
A lack of healthy carb intake can result in brain fog, fatigue, irritability, and even sometimes anxiety. This can often lead to poor food choices and increased portion sizes over time as well.
Fuels The Brain
The brain uses about 120 grams of glucose (sourced from carbohydrates) per day. In fact, the brain exclusively functions on energy from carbs.
More specifically, It utilizes about 60% carbs at a resting rate (i.e. when you’re just sitting around).
If you want to keep your cognitive function sharp and clear, you need to consume healthy carbs!
Supports Muscle Function
When we say muscle, we’re referring to skeletal muscle as well as muscles like the heart. They both use carbohydrates as fuel just as the brain does.
Muscle also has the unique capability of storing excess carbohydrates. This stored carbohydrate is referred to as glycogen, which muscle can hold up to 1200 kcal (kilocalories) of.
Builds Energy Reserves
Fat cells have the ability to store excess carbohydrates, called triglycerides, as adipose tissue for later use of energy.
Triglycerides are used in many different ways throughout the body. In addition to energy, they play a role in organ protection and heat insulation and also act messengers throughout the body.
Promotes Optimal Digestion
It’s important to note that healthy carbs are filled with soluble and insoluble fiber.
Fiber is vital for promoting optimal digestion and GI motility. Regular consumption results in regular bowel movements reduced bloating and healthy gut microbiome.
Now that we know why carbs are so important, which ones are we talking about when we say healthy carbs?
Fruit is an excellent source of nutrient-dense carbohydrates. All fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber in addition to energy-producing carbohydrates.
Fruit’s sugar content is what makes it a great source of starchy carbohydrate.
From green apples, raspberries, blueberries, and bananas to papaya, mango, pineapples, and dates, you can’t go wrong with using fruit as a source of healthy carb.
Yes, vegetables are carbohydrates too!
Vegetables are sources of both starchy and non-starchy carbs.
Peas, corn, and potatoes are examples of starchy-carbohydrates, while broccoli, leafy greens, and peppers are examples of non-starchy carbohydrates.
Head to our Foundational Five Food Index to learn more about vegetables in the starchy and non-starchy carbohydrate categories!
Beans, Pulses & Legumes
These are great examples of starchy carbohydrates, making them a wonderful source of healthy carb. Beans, pulses, and legumes have also gone through minimal processing leaving their fiber content completely intact.
Think of black beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas for this category.
Whole grains are a great source of starchy carbohydrates as well. Quinoa, millet, amaranth, wild rice, and basmati rice are all examples of this.
Traditional and gluten-free variations of whole grain, sprouted grain or whole wheat bread also fit into this category.
How To Consume Healthy Carbs
Due to the fact that carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, the body digests and absorbs them very easily and very quickly.
When carbs are consumed on their own, they’re quickly absorbed leading to a blood sugar spike and subsequent drop. That drop in blood sugar can leave us feeling hungry, shaky, irritable, and just plain uncomfortable!
To avoid this, just be sure to pair your healthy carbs with a protein or healthy fat source. This will help to slow down the absorption of the carb and keep your blood sugar stable.
Put This Into Practice
Are you just starting to add healthy carbs to your diet? Maybe you’ve previously tried to avoid carbs all together or simply restrict them? You most certainly are not alone.
Moving away from the diet mentality and transitioning to a healthy lifestyle takes a little bit of self-love, dedication, and support.
Our free guide for how to create healthy eating habits in an easy and enjoyable way can help you with that support. It will take you step-by-step through the process of building a healthy relationship with food that’s not only sustainable but also unique to you.