This is the last post of my macronutrient series. The past two blog posts talked about Fats and Proteins. Carbohydrates are the third macronutrient, and the focus of today’s blog post. We all know a little something about carbohydrates (let’s call them carbs for short), but you may wonder what are some good examples of carbohydrates, which carbs are “good” for you, and which ones are “bad” for you.
In a nutshell, carbs provide us with a source of energy. Carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (and now you can see how it got the name “carbohydrate”). All carbs break down to glucose (sugar) in the digestive process, which supplies the body with energy.
You may have heard of “simple” vs. “complex” carbs. We’ll go into that in another blog post, but for now I want you to think of “good” carbs vs. “bad” carbs in this way: the carbohydrates that are the best for your body ALSO contain other goodies. They contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They’re not just sugar in a fancy package, they’re a whole food.
Some examples of good carbohydrates (eat these often):
- Whole Grains – “whole” means it’s unprocessed and contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating unprocessed whole grains is good for you because it breaks down slower in the body and doesn’t cause a big spike in blood sugar when the glucose hits the bloodstream. Whole grains for people who don’t eat gluten include rice, oats (only certified gluten-free oats), and millet.
- Beans and legumes – these are plant foods that contain a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and are also a really good source of carbohydrates, as well as protein. Try different colors of beans and lentils.
- Vegetables – yes, veggies are carbs and they are good carbs. Leafy green and cruciferous veggies (like broccoli and cauliflower) are very low in grams of carbohydrates, but they pack a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. Starchier vegetables like potatoes and corn are higher in grams of carbohydrates and provide beneficial micronutrients too. Vegetables help keep you full, and you should aim to some with every meal and snack.
- Fruits – another delicious source of good carbs for your body, particularly in its whole form. Fruits contain lots of vitamins and fiber, and taste great. They also contain quite a bit of natural sugars, so do eat them, but don’t go overboard with fruit.
- Dairy – these contain lactose, a milk sugar, as well as protein. Be sure your dairy products like milk and yogurt don’t contain additional sugar. If you must, sweetening them with fruit is a better option. Dairy products contains vitamins and minerals, but not fiber.
Some examples of bad carbohydrates (eat these sparingly):
- Baked goods – cookies, cake, pastries, dinner rolls, bread
- Pudding and mousse
- Sugar-sweetened dairy like fruity yogurt and chocolate milk
- Soft drinks and fruit drinks
Challenge yourself to increase your good carbs and decrease your bad carbs, and see what a difference it makes in your energy levels throughout the day.