By Nicci Micco, M.S., editor-at-large for EatingWell Magazine
I've never been a fan of low-carb diets: Our bodies and our brains need carbohydrates to work effectively.
Of course, not all carbohydrates are created equally. First of all, fruits, dairy and vegetables are all sources of carbohydrates. And when it comes to starches, there are indeed "good" carbs (we'll get to that in a sec) and the "bad" ones that, if you eat them all the time, can raise your risk of developing diseases like heart disease and diabetes. (We're talking about doughnuts, cakes and even refined white breads.) On the flip side, eating "good carbs" in place of refined ones can reduce your risk of these very same diseases -- and may even help you to lose weight because they're generally rich in fiber.
Here are six "great" carbs to keep in your diet.
Because sometimes you just need pasta -- and whole-wheat kinds offer two to three times more fiber than refined white varieties, but they're just as versatile and delicious. (Similarly, whole-wheat bread and brown rice are healthier choices than their "white" counterparts.) Try our healthier fettuccine Alfredo and more lightened-up pasta recipes for a healthy dinner tonight. To cook: Follow the package directions! More from EatingWell: 9 "Bad" Foods You Should Be Eating 6 More Reasons Your Body Needs Carbs Ditch These 4 Foods to Clean Up Your Diet Flickr photo by Kari Sullivan
Consider it souped-up couscous. A delicately flavored whole grain, it provides some fiber (two grams per half-cup) and a good amount of protein (four grams). Note: Research shows protein can help you feel full for longer. Rinsing quinoa removes any residue of saponin, its natural bitter protective coating. Try adding quinoa to your diet with our delicious Pear-Quinoa Salad and more healthy ideas for quinoa. To cook: Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Flickr photo by Kim Woodbridge
Available "pearled" (the bran has been removed) or "quick-cooking" (parboiled). While both contain soluble fiber that helps keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, pearl barley has a little more. To cook: Pearl barley -- Bring 1 cup barley and 2.5 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand five minutes. For quick-cooking barley -- Bring 1.75 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup barley. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Flickr photo by frostnova
Cracked wheat that's been parboiled so it simply needs to soak in hot water for most uses -- a perfect low-maintenance grain. It's also a good source of feel-full fiber: just half a cup delivers five grams. To cook: Pour 1.5 cups boiling water or broth over 1 cup bulgur. Let stand, covered, until light and fluffy, about 30 minutes. If all the water is not absorbed, let the bulgur stand longer or press it in a strainer to remove excess liquid. Flickr photo by Rooey202
These are the whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat. They're terrific sources of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and yes, fiber. To cook: Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones, and rinse with water. Bring 4 cups water or broth and 1 cup wheat berries to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still a little chewy, about one hour. Drain. Flickr photo by Rooey202
Because when you're craving pretzels or potato chips... You're certainly not going to reach for a bowl of oatmeal. Popcorn satisfies a snack craving and it's a whole grain. No, I'm not kidding: Three cups of popped popcorn (what you get by popping one heaping tablespoon of kernels) equals one of your three recommended daily servings of whole grains and contains three grams of fiber. To cook: Toss a heaping tablespoon into an air popper. More from EatingWell: 9 "Bad" Foods You Should Be Eating 6 More Reasons Your Body Needs Carbs Ditch These 4 Foods to Clean Up Your Diet Flickr photo by Lisa Clarke
Do you avoid carbs when you're trying to lose weight?
By Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is editor-at-large for EatingWell and co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.
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