Carbohydrates are a macronutrient and are the body’s preferred source of energy. Sources of carbohydrates range from simple carbs to complex carbs. However in recent times, carbohydrates have developed a bad reputation as the cause of weight gain. Even the slightest mention of indulging in carbs whilst on a diet, conjures up images of personal trainers lecturing you on the benefits of going low carb.
However, the reality is whether you lose or gain weight is down to how much energy you consume in the way of food, versus the amount of energy you use on a daily basis, as opposed to your overall carbohydrate consumption. Good carbohydrates are packed with health benefits including: lower levels of cholesterol and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Let’s take a look at some of the healthiest sources of carbohydrates:
1. Brown Rice and 100% Whole Wheat Produce
The great thing about whole wheat flour is that it contains a multitude of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and fibre which are largely lost when converting it to refined white flour. When shopping around for whole wheat products such as pasta and bread, be sure that they are made from 100% whole wheat flour.
The same is true of brown rice, which possesses many nutrients that are lost if it is processed into white rice for the purposes of improving flavour and texture.
Oatmeal is largely considered to be one of the healthiest possible breakfasts containing lots of complex carbohydrates and fibre. As it is slowly digested, oatmeal provides you with a steady flow of energy throughout the morning. Be sure to choose traditional oatmeal and add your own favourite ingredients, as alternatives.
Legumes are a great source of healthy complex carbohydrates and non-animal protein. They include foods such as peas, peanuts and beans. Legumes also contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Fruits are packed full of important nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fruits sometimes get a bad rep as they contain simple sugars, however their high fibre content helps to slow down the absorption and digestion processes. Having a slower absorption and digestion process helps you to stay fuller for longer, thus helping you to keep your total calories low.
Foods with high levels of fibre can help to keep you satisfied longer than those with little or no fibre. Fibre can also help to lower cholesterol levels and lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer. Be aware that fruit juice is nothing like eating a real piece of fruit. The pulp and skin, which contain the most fibre are removed from the fruit during the commercial process of fruit juice production. The final result is a sugary, high calorie juice devoid of nutrients.
Vegetables are similar to fruits in that they contain many nutrients, however they contain less calories. Due to their high fibre content, they can help you to eat less throughout the day, due to feelings of fullness.
In terms of where we’d rank each food group in terms of the healthiest sources of carbohydrates, vegetables are by far the healthiest, so make sure you load your plate with them!