Recent diet crazes have encouraged the belief that all carbohydrates are bad for us. However, our bodies need some carbohydrates to provide us with energy for the day. There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Bad carbohydrates are refined and stripped of their nutritional value, while unrefined carbohydrates are healthy. Eating unrefined carbohydrates is key to maintaining a healthy weight because they slow the body's insulin response and keep us feeling full for longer.
Get unrefined carbohydrates by eating whole grain foods, which use all parts of the grain: the endosperm, bran and germ. Refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ, which are the most nutritious parts of the grain. Look for whole grain breads made from ingredients like whole wheat flour, whole barley flour or whole oat flour. You can also find pasta made from whole grain flour. Other whole grains include common foods like brown rice, wild rice, oats, rye and couscous. Less common whole grains include amaranth, flaxseed, bulgar, millet, quinoa, spelt and wheat berries.
The most commonly consumed sweeteners are refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, but they are not nutritious. Natural sugars provide us with healthy, unrefined carbohydrates and break down into our bloodstreams more slowly than refined carbohydrates. A unrefined sweetener will usually be brown or yellowish in colour, rather than a bright white. Turbinado sugar, honey, molasses, unrefined cane sugar, rice syrup and barley malt are all unrefined sweeteners. You can also try sorghum syrup, maize sugar, agave nectar, birch syrup or palm sugar as an alternative to refined white sugar.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating unrefined carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables is one of the best dietary decisions you can make. In addition to providing healthy carbs, they are packed with health-maintaining vitamins, minerals and fibre. All carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables are unrefined: it is when you add white sugar to these foods that you pack on the refined carbs. You can eat them fresh or cooked, frozen or from a can, but it's important to eat at least five servings a day. Try foods like spinach, kale or mustard greens for a super vitamin boost. Fruits like apples, pears and bananas are high in nutrients and high in fibre. Beans and nuts also contain unrefined carbohydrates and are high in fibre.