Despite what you may have heard, not all carbohydrates, or carbs, are bad. It’s true that carbs can be found in processed foods lacking nutritional benefit. Carbs are also naturally found in nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, beans and grains. Good carbs from these nutrient-dense foods provide valuable vitamins and minerals and make up the foundation for a balanced weight-loss plan.
Choose whole grains instead of highly processed grains. Processing grains removes many of the beneficial nutrients in the grain. Whole grains are minimally processed and have more of the naturally occurring nutrients making them a better choice for overall health. The fiber in whole grains contributes to the feeling of fullness between meals, which can assist with weight loss. To determine if a product contains whole grains, look for the word "whole" -- such as whole wheat -- in the product ingredients list.
All vegetables contain some carbohydrates. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and peas, have as many carbs per serving as grains, or approximately 15 grams per serving. Non-starchy vegetables, as the name suggests, have fewer grams of carbs than starchy vegetables, with 5 grams per serving. Both starchy and non-starchy vegetables provide valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Vegetables are low in calories and when substituted for higher-calorie foods, can contribute to weight loss.
Fruits are nutrient-dense sources of carbs that are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits have approximately 15 grams of carbs per serving. Fresh and frozen fruits are preferable selections for weight loss because they do not contain the added sugars found in canned fruit or fruit juice.
The high nutrient content in beans and peas classifies them as both a vegetable and protein food, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Beans have 15 grams of carbs per serving and are excellent sources of zinc, potassium and fiber. Beans make a good no-fat vegetarian protein source and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes.
Dairy foods, including milk, yogurt and cheese, provide calcium, potassium, protein and carbs. One serving of dairy has 15 grams of carbs, as many as grains and starchy vegetables. Low-fat dairy has same amount of carbs as full-fat dairy but fewer calories and fat per serving, making it a better selection for weight loss.
- Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains: An Important Source of Essential Nutrients
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition: Breaking Down Whole Grain Myths and Misinformation
- American Diabetes Association: Food & Fitness: What Can I Eat?: Grains and Starchy Vegetables, Non-Starchy Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy