Perhaps the publicity around certain fad diets has led you to believe that carbs are dietary enemy number one. You’ve read the propaganda and watched some videos telling you how to avoid all carbohydrates, and now you’ll only order your burger without a bun. In theory, this sounds great, so why are you still struggling to keep unwanted weight off?
Many people who attempt a carb-free lifestyle in order to lose weight experience great immediate results, but these results are often short-lived. We’d like to provide an alternative: Eating certain carbohydrates can inspire both fat-loss and muscle growth that will help you get and stay beach-ready for years to come.
If you want to understand how eating carbs can help you lose weight, you first need to understand the difference between two types of carbohydrates. The first type, simple carbohydrates, are the ones that are composed of just one or two sugar molecules. Some examples of foods with simple carbs include white bread, white rice, honey, and candy. Complex carbohydrates are made from three or more of those same simple carbohydrate molecules linked together. We’ll show you some great examples in the slides that follow.
Your body handles the digestion of simple and complex carbs in different ways. Simple carbs are quite easily digestible and quickly absorbed, resulting in a blood sugar spike and a quick, fleeting jolt of energy. These will often convert to glucose and, eventually, appear as fat on the body. Complex carbohydrates take longer for us to digest and absorb, resulting in a steadier, more sustained energy source. Complex carbohydrates contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber than their simpler counterparts, meaning that not only will eating them provide your body with a sustained nutrient flow throughout the day, but also that you will feel fuller from eating them.
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Your body will burn off carbohydrates before it tackles fats and proteins. Low-carb diets attempt to take advantage of the carbs-first, fat-second, protein-last order of digestive operation on the theory that if it doesn't have carbs to burn, your body will turn to fat as fuel. While this is tempting as a quick way to shed some excess weight, you’ll find more weight-loss success by focusing on consuming moderate amounts of complex carbs with your meals and avoiding simple carbs (especially that devilish sugar) as often as possible. Additionally, complex carbs will help you to fuel for and recover from arduous workouts.
You’ll usually be able to spot the difference between complex and simple carbs as readily as you can identify whether something is from the earth or from a factory. Simple carbs will look like a human played some part in their creation. More often than not, a simple carb placed next to its complex cousin will look lackluster (e.g. white bread next to Ezekiel bread). A lot of complex carbohydrates can be found in the produce section, unbound by human packaging.
Regardless of where they’re found in the grocery store, deciding to eat any of the following complex carbohydrates can help you achieve your best summer body yet.
It's high in fiber, molybdenum, selenium, and manganese; you won’t find a much more nutritious complex carb than barley. Barley is most readily incorporated into soups, but you can also smoke it with wood chips and serve it with lamb or make risotto with it. A 100-gram serving of pearl barley has nearly four grams of fiber and just over 120 calories — making it a viable carbohydrate for weight-loss and overall health.
2. Black Beans
It’s the International Year of Pulses so we suggest celebrating by eating some protein- and fiber-rich black beans. They work great as salad ingredients or the core of a bowl-based meal. While eating 100 grams of black beans would provide you with an astounding 16 grams of fiber (and 340 or so calories), we feel that the eight grams of fiber (and 170 calories) in a 50-gram serving may be much easier to stomach.
3. Brown Rice
Brown rice is one of the complex carbohydrate basics. Per 100 grams, there are about two grams of health-promoting fiber and just over 110 calories in brown rice. It’s simple to prepare and quite versatile, so be sure to stock brown rice in your pantry for an easy, beach body-friendly food source.
If you’re looking for a nutrient-packed whole-grain source of energy in the morning, this Bulgur with Pistachios and Raisins recipe is for you. Utilizing bulgur, a quickly cooking, versatile form of wheat that’s often prepared like oats, the recipe is packed with complex carbs, healthy fats, and some great plant-based protein. With nearly no sugar, four and a half grams of fiber, and just over 80 calories per 100 grams, bulgur is a smart, simple way to fuel your body in preparation for warmer weather.
Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are protein-rich legumes that are rich in B vitamins as well as iron and phosphorous. You can easily turn chickpeas into hummus, which can be used on salads, as a dip, or on sandwiches. Using 100 grams of chickpeas in your hummus recipe will give you somewhere around 17 grams of dietary fiber and nearly twenty grams of precious plant-based protein. Be careful, though: 100 grams of chickpeas will also add up to 365 calories.