With all the talk of low-carb diets and foods, you might think that carbs are the enemy of weight loss, but that’s far from the case. Carbohydrates are a necessary and vital part of a healthy diet. They provide energy, protecting against disease and helping to control weight. However, all carbs are not created equally.
Types of Carbs
Carbohydrates are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, dairy, nuts and seeds, grains and legumes. The three main types of carbs include sugars, starches and fiber. A unit of measure called the glycemic index indicates the potential of each type of carbohydrate to raise your blood sugar level.
For weight loss, focus on eating foods with a relatively low glycemic index rating, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans, peas and lentils). Avoid foods higher on the glycemic index, like processed white bread, desserts, sugary drinks and potatoes.
How many carbohydrates you need varies based on where you are in your weight loss journey. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that carbs should make up about 45 to 65% of your total daily calories. Your nutritionist will provide you with a healthy range for your daily intake, and can show you how to read food labels so you can make well-informed choices.
When it comes to weight loss, it’s less about cutting carbs out of your diet, but rather choosing the healthiest carbs possible. For example, legumes are a great source of protein, which is very important after weight loss surgery. They are also low in fat and high in essential nutrients, including iron, magnesium, potassium and folate.
While canned and frozen vegetables are a great option for healthy carbs and other nutrients, whole, fresh options offer more fiber and water, which helps you feel fuller, longer. When it comes to grains, look for whole grains. Avoid processed or refined grains, which have some of the nutrients and fiber stripped out of them.
Choose healthy carbs that keep your body fueled and energized, while also providing other nutritional benefits such as protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Avoid foods with added sugars or that are refined—such as desserts, white bread and sugary drinks—that cause your blood sugar to spike and offer no nutrition.
It may take time to adjust your tastes, but there are countless delicious and healthy options that will help you look and feel better over the long term. If you are struggling, make an appointment with our nutritionist or attend one of our online support groups to learn tips and strategies from others who have been where you are.