Carbs have been villified by the mainstream media in recent years as more and more research points to high sugar consumption as the primary factor in rising obesity rates. While it is true that the average western diet is way too carb-heavy, not all carbs are created equal.
To determine which carbs are healthiest, nutritional scientists developed what is known as the Glycemic Index. It’s a way of ranking carbs based on how fast they raise blood sugar levels and it’s useful for knowing which carbs will and won’t spike your insulin levels drastically. The lower the Glycemix Index of a food, the slower it raises blood sugar levels, and the less insulin needs to be secreted at once to deal with it.
When you consume simple carbohydrates, which generally have very high Glycemix Indexes, your body is forced to secrete a lot of insulin in order to deal with the sudden elevation in blood sugar. People who subject their bodies to this again and again, day after day, year after year, are much more likely to become Insulin Resistant and develop Diabetes.
You need to eat carbs, and there’s nothing wrong with eating them every day. You just need to be careful about what kind of carbs you’re prioritizing. In a nutshell, healthy carbs are those that have a low glycemix index. Here are 5 examples you should consider incorporating into your diet:
#1 | Steel Cut Oatmeal
Does it matter if their steel cut? No, but it sounds cooler. It does, however, matter if their instant or not. Instant oatmeal has a much higher Glycemic Index than the oatmeal you have to actually wake up 15 minutes earlier to cook, so you should ideally try to avoid it…just wake up a little earlier and eat the good kind!
#2 | Sweet Potato
If you read 11 Vegetables You Should Definitely Be Eating If You Lift, you may have noticed Sweet Potato was right at the top. That’s what makes it such a great carb…It’s also a vegetable! Sweet Potatoes are an excellent source of various micronutrients, but are also full of fiber which makes them digest much slower than other starchy vegetables such as regular Potato.
#3 | Corn
Corn is processed and used to make all types of horrible things (like High Fructose Corn Syrup), but in it’s basic form (on the cob), it’s a fantastic carb to eat regularly. In addition to having a very low Glycemic Index, it’s also a great source of B Vitamins and minerals like Iron and Magnesium, all of which are important for athletes.
#4 | Brown (Whole Grain) Rice
Brown Rice is simply whole grain Rice. It is much more nutritious than White Rice and, because it contains much more Fiber than White Rice, it raises blood sugar at a much slower rate. Brown Rice is perfect for lunch because it provides plenty of carbs, but won’t spike your Insulin levels and put you in a carb coma while you’re at work.
#5 | Chickpeas
ChickPeas certainly aren’t the first thing you think of when you thin “carbs”, but this is actually the carb with the lowest Glycemic Index out of all the carbs on this list. Try tossing them on a salad to carb it up for a change.
The bottom line on carbs
Carbs aren’t the villain they’re often made out to be, but you should be careful about what kind of carbs you’re consuming. While it is true that all carbs are eventually broken down into simple sugars in the end, the speed with which they hit your blood stream matters. Stick with healthy carbs that have a lower Glycemic Index and you’ll avoid the massive blood sugar spikes that can have a negative impact on your longterm health.
I'm Matt, Founder of Momentum Nutrition and SuppWithThat.com. I've spent the better part of the last decade researching and experimenting in the areas of fitness, nutrition, and supplementation, and this is where I write it all down.