Carbs often get a bad rap in the nutrition world. Everything from weight gain to diabetes somehow comes back down to carbs. The truth is, you need carbs for energy. Carbs are what actually fill you up. The danger of carbs comes from refined, processed versions of it that only cause a spike in your blood sugar. Fortunately, there are some forms of carbs out there that can really add a lot of nutritional value to your diet.
People tend to villainize corn because of its use in so many processed foods. In its purest form, corn is actually a good source of antioxidant carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.1 Both of these are extremely important for maintaining eye health. Not to mention corn has plenty of other vitamins and minerals.
Bananas are an amazing source of potassium as well as slow releasing energy. If you’re looking for a snack as a pick-me-up, bananas will give you the energy you need without the crash. Feel free to add it to smoothies or even just sliced up with other fruits for some sweetness.
Quinoa is one of the most popular superfoods on the market and for good reason. It’s a great source of fiber which can help keep you full for longer and help maintain a healthy gut. It’s a great source of antioxidants and minerals like manganese, phosphorus, iron, and copper.2 All of these trace minerals are essential for various bodily functions.
Squash is a great alternative to traditional carbs like bread or rice. Butternut squash is also a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese. Just one cup of cubed butternut squash gives you more potassium than one banana.3 Squash vegetables are versatile and can be used in savory or sweet preparations.
5. Sweet Potato
Although sweet potatoes do contain more sugar than regular potatoes, they do give you a host of nutritional benefits as well. They’re a great source of carotenoids, B vitamins, and vitamin A. Just one large sweet potato can give you about 100% of the daily recommended vitamin A intake.4 Try replacing your regular baked potato with a baked sweet potato instead. Just be sure to skip on all the fixings.
As far as whole grains go, barley ranks pretty high on the charts when it comes to health benefits. Barley provides a range of important vitamins and minerals: fiber, selenium, B vitamins, copper, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, niacin, and more.5 They are low in fat and high in fiber. However, they do contain gluten.
They’re not an obvious choice when you think of carbs but peas are in fact, a great source of carbs. Peas also contain a good amount of vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus and copper, and are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin and manganese.6
Now that you know that you don’t have to eliminate all carbs from your diet, get out there and try out these healthy options. Just make sure to stick to portion sizes and practice moderation with every food group.
|↑1||Hu, Qing-ping, and Jian-guo Xu. “Profiles of carotenoids, anthocyanins, phenolics, and antioxidant activity of selected color waxy corn grains during maturation.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59, no. 5 (2011): 2026-2033.|
|↑2||Basic Report: 20137, Quinoa, cooked. United States Department Of Agriculture|
|↑3||Basic Report: 11485, Squash, winter, butternut, raw. United States Department Of Agriculture|
|↑4||Basic Report: 11507, Sweet potato, raw, unprepared. United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑5||Basic Report: 20004, Barley, hulled. United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑6||Basic Report: 11304, Peas, green, raw. United States Department Of Agriculture.|