When it comes to weight loss and optimum health, carbohydrates are not your enemy. Why? Carbs are converted into glucose in the body, giving you energy. Carbs are the preferred fuel source for the brain and body, and they’re vital for exercise-goers, especially long-distance runners. There’s a caveat to this, of course. Refined carbohydrates—white bread, cookies, pastries and most cereals—spike your blood sugar levels and essentially tell the body to store fat.
Good carbs—think sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa—combined with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, not only help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, but they also contribute to weight loss without leaving you hungry. The aforementioned top-quality carbs have plenty of belly-filling fiber to keep you fuller for a longer period of time.
That is why a half cup (8 ounces) of oatmeal mixed in with 2 ounces of peanut butter—which has the same number of calories as a typical glazed donut, 350—aids in weight loss. Not all calories are equal. Eating quality carbs—beans are also at the top of the list—means you won’t be doomed to a growling stomach when trying to reach your goal.
Forget the diet myth that you can’t lose weight if you’re eating carbs—it’s simply a statement that has no scientific legs to stand on.
Kimberly Gomer, who is a Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist and the director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Florida, says in a Women’s Running blog: “I think the medical professionals, media and diet industry have fueled the fear [of carbs]. Many people hear from their trainers, their doctor, their friend, ‘Stay away from carbs.’ Diet myths are all around and the trends in dieting are found everywhere.”
The adage of too much of a good thing applies to quality carbs as well, so portion size is key. For those who can’t stand the thought of counting calories and measuring portion sizes with cups, think of each meal this way: Fill a little more than two-thirds of your plate with veggies and lean protein (chicken breast, 85-percent or higher ground beef/turkey), and the remainder with a high-quality carb source like brown rice or potatoes (and if you’re going to top off that baked potato with a condiment like cheese or sour cream, go really easy on it).
Those wanting to lose weight need not give up pasta or bread. However, opt for the whole wheat variety, as studies show a diet rich in whole grains is linked to a lower body mass index.