There is a common misconception in current culture that needs to be debunked. Between celebrities, news stories and social media, you might be tempted to think carbs are the root of all disease.
Let's clear the air: Carbohydrates are not bad for you.
In truth, carbohydrates are a necessary nutrient the body needs to function. Glucose, which is the building block for carbs, is the main source of energy for the brain and many other vital organs in the body. The idea that carbs are bad more than likely stems from the misconception that they only come from refined white breads and desserts. This is simply not true.
It is unnecessary and unhealthy to cut out all sources of carbohydrates. If you do not consume enough of them, your body is forced to produce its own glucose. This causes your body a lot of stress and can leave you feeling tired and unable to focus. On top of that, not having enough glucose can make it difficult to have enough energy to be physically active!
In addition to being a major source of energy, carbohydrates also provide many phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals — integral to the function of every cell in our bodies. Phytochemicals, which reduce your risk for disease, are beneficial plant nutrients only found in plant foods. Examples of phytochemicals include antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids.
Carbohydrates can be found in many healthy foods such as:
- whole grains (an excellent source of fiber)
- dairy (a great source of calcium)
- starchy vegetables like peas, beans, sweet potato and winter squash (a great source of carotenoids)
- fruit (a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants)
The key to a healthy diet is not to deprive yourself of entire food groups, but to increase the variety within food groups. The healthiest diet you can have is full of many colors, shapes and sizes. With this variety comes energy, good health and the proper ability to focus.
New Carbs to Try
Here are some ideas for healthy carbs to try this year:
- Teff. A whole grain traditionally eaten in Ethiopia. Bob's Red Mill brand has a delicious recipe for Teff Porridge with Dates and Honey that's a great breakfast for the whole family!
- Kefir. A fermented dairy drink. Check out blogger Anne Cundiff’s July 2014 post on kefir.
- Sweet potatoes served with beans or lentils. Below is a Savory Sweet Potato Burrito recipe that is sure to please.
- Dried tart cherries are a tasty snack on their own or mixed with nuts in a trail mix.
For 2015, resolve to focus on the foods to include, not foods to restrict!
Savory Sweet Potato Burritos
Recipe developed by Julie Lanford, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN
Makes 8 burritos
2 small onions, sliced thin
3 medium poblano peppers, sliced thin
2 medium sweet potatoes, rough spots removed, cut into strips
1 1/2 tablespoonds oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can black beans
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt
Chili powder, to taste
8 whole wheat tortillas
- Place sweet potato strips into microwave safe bowl, add 1/4 cup water and cook for 8-10 minutes, until all pieces are soft.
- While sweet potato is cooking, stir fry onions and peppers in oil on the stove over medium high heat, until onions are soft.
- Layer burritos in the tortilla with yogurt, chili powder, sweet potato, onion, peppers and black beans. Squeeze 1/8 of lime over the contents and wrap. Eat!