Smart carbs: what to eat and what’s not so smart

smart carbs

Carbohydrates, or “carbs”, can sometimes get a bad reputation. People think carbs contribute to weight gain and uncontrolled diabetes. However the reality is that carbohydrates are essential for proper brain and body functioning.

The key is focusing on incorporating smart carb choices into your daily diet. Consumption of healthier or smart carbs can not only help to promote healthy weight loss if that is a goal, but can also do a fabulous job of keeping blood sugar levels under control.

If you are interested in what carbohydrates are the best choices and why, keep reading!

Carbohydrates to Avoid

The types of carbohydrates that generally give all carbs a bad reputation are also known as simple carbohydrates. These include candies, soda, sweets, cakes, or cookies. Not only do these types of foods generally have little to no nutritional benefits, but they also contribute to spiking blood sugar levels.

Simple sugars are easily absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. This is great for someone during a hypoglycemic episode (when blood sugars drop too low). But for people trying to manage blood sugar levels, keep them stable, and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels, these are a poor choice. 

Choosing Smart Carbs

Not all carbohydrates are created equally. There are plenty of smart carbs that can and should be part of a healthful diet.

Carbohydrates that are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream are good choices when it comes to blood sugar management. These would include whole grain and high fiber choices like brown rice, whole wheat bread, beans, legumes, vegetables, or fruits. 

What to look for on a Nutrition Facts label

Reading the nutrition labels on foods can also help you find out whether you are making a smart carb choice.

There are a few key parts to look at to make the determination. First, look at “Total Carbohydrates”. Every 15 grams of carbohydrate is one serving. Keep in mind that everyone may have different carbohydrate intake goals for each meal and snack period. But generally about three servings per meal would be appropriate (~45 grams). Each snack should have about 1 serving (15 grams).

Just keeping the total carbohydrates within a normal range does not necessarily make it a smart carb choice. Next, look to see if there is any fiber listed on the nutrition facts label. When looking for foods high in fiber look for foods that have more than 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving. 

Fiber is not easily digested in our bodies so it does not contribute to elevating blood sugar levels. Therefore,  the grams of dietary fiber can be subtracted from the total carbohydrate content. If you are counting carb servings consumed, this can be very helpful!

High fiber foods are smart carb choices because they help to slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. 

Meal or snack planning

In addition to consuming carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, there is another way to help keep your blood sugar levels steady when consuming carbohydrates.

Adding protein to meals can also slow digestion and subsequently slow the absorption of sugars from the gut into the bloodstream. 

Adding a protein rich food to your meal or snack containing carbohydrates can help prevent spikes or lows in your blood sugar level.

Smart carbs in conclusion

When all is said and done, all foods can fit into a healthy diet regimen. Making smart choices when it comes to carbohydrates can make a world of difference when managing blood sugar levels.

If you would like more individualized support, you may be a candidate for my nutrition coaching program! Be sure to check it out!

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