Trying to come up with a healthy post-gym meal and find yourself Googling, ‘What are good carbs to eat?’.
Well, stop. There’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ carbs—despite their bad rep (thanks, Atkins). Thanks to so many high profile low-carb diets, the food group has been ostracised for so long that some still swear pasta is the devil or tell you about that gluten-intolerance.
But carbohydrates are your body’s main source of slow releasing energy and are essential for muscle recovery. What’s more, they make you feel great (and not just because toast is tasty). Research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Participants who ate 20 to 40g of carbs diet every day for 12 months—that’s about half a cup of rice and one piece of bread—experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those who followed a higher carb diet.
However, as with any food group, some sources are undoubtedly more nutritionally nourishing than others. Some could even be the key to fat loss. One Harvard study found that eating the right kinds of carb resulted in more fat loss than avoiding them all together. Pass the sweet potato a la pronto.
Is this right? Apparently so. To shed pounds, “the quality of carbs is as important as the quantity,” says study co-author Dr Frank Hu. More carbs can equal more fat loss. You just have to know the rules…
WHAT ARE ‘GOOD’ CARBS TO EAT?
YOUR CARB GUIDE 101
CARBS TO EAT RARELY
1. SIMPLE SUGARS
Your body breaks them down faster than kitten videos go viral. The problem? Overindulging causes blood sugar spikes, then crashes, making you even hungrier.
TIP: Cap it at 30g a day, the NHS says. That includes natural stuff like agave or honey. Your body handles those the same way (sorry about that).
2. REFINED GRAINS
Processed grains, like white rice or pasta, leave your digestive tract out of a job. These guys, which have been stripped of valuable nutrients like fibre, speed through your gut so quickly you’ll be hungry again shortly after eating them.
TIP: Have no more than two handfuls of these bad boys a day.
CARBS TO EAT MODERATELY
3. WHOLE GRAINS
They take more energy to turn into, well, energy, so your body can’t burn them like their refined counterparts (ie, greater satiety, fewer cravings).
TIP: Have up to three servings a day of 100% whole grains. So that’s 50g uncooked pasta, 50g dry oatmeal and one slice of bread.
Fructose, fruit’s built-in sugar, makes a pit stop in your liver, a diversion that helps prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. Whole fruit also packs fibre, vitamins and water that keep you feeling full.
TIP: Make fruit no more than two of your five-a-day to avoid ODing on sugar – natural or otherwise.
CARBS TO EAT ALL THE TIME
Don’t shy away from the spud. Go for resistant starches like potatoes; they resist digestion, so your body extracts fewer calories from them.
TIP: Cool it. Your potato that is. Research published in Advances in Nutrition has found resistant starch increases when potatoes are cooked and then cooled.
Even though a lot of diet plans (including paleo) have banished them, fibre- and protein-packed legumes should be your BFFs.
TIP: Work legumes like chickpeas, lentils and edamame into your daily offerings. A study in Obesity found people felt 31% fuller after eating 160g of legumes daily.
Ever wondered: Is eating late at night unhealthy? Or which oil is healthy for cooking?