These 7 Carbs Can Help You Lose Weight

Rejoice: if you’re hoping to lose weight, certain carbohydrates can help you do it. Even though it may not seem like it, there is such a thing as healthy carbs. “The pendulum swings back and forth with diet fads, and people started to hear they’d lose a ton of weight by eating low-carb,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., and owner of Nutrition Starring You

That’s not exactly false—when carbohydrates are stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen, or a form of energy, they bond with water. “There’s about a three to one ratio of grams of water to grams of carbs, so when you cut back on carbohydrates, you can lose a lot of water weight,” says Harris-Pincus. The thing is that it’s not sustainable weight loss, because as soon as you start eating carbs, that water weight comes right back.

Instead of completely slashing carbs in an effort to lose weight, why not see them as the potential helpers they are? Because of their more intricate molecular structure, complex carbohydrates fill you better than refined ones. Since they do a better job of keeping you satiated, incorporating them can help you avoid hunger-induced snacking on less healthy choices.

There’s also the fact that they’re just necessary for good health overall. “Your body needs carbohydrates to run, which is why they should be a prominent part of your diet,” says Harris-Pincus, who suggests keeping carbs to around 50 or 60 percent of your daily intake. The key is to seek out carbohydrates that are as nutrient-dense as possible instead of ones that are just vehicles for empty calories. Here, seven carbs can help you drop pounds without skimping on deliciousness.

1. Fruits

Thai-Chopped-Chicken-Mason-Jar-Salad“When you think of carbs, you might have a picture of a bagel in your mind,” says Harris-Pincus. “Remember that fruits and vegetables are also carbs!” While you already know vegetables are good for you, some people get nervous about fruits because of their sugar content. But fructose, the naturally occurring sugar in fruits, is a carbohydrate. That makes fruits a great source of energy, plus their fiber prevents your blood sugar levels from going haywire the way they can with artificial sugar.

Fiber is a super-filling nutrient that can help ward off cravings in addition to keeping your digestive system chugging along smoothly. It’s also one of the reasons complex carbohydrates win out over refined ones—foods rich in complex carbs are often full of fiber as well. Luckily, fruits tend to have fiber in spades.

Fiber falls into two categories: insoluble and soluble. “Insoluble fiber is hard to digest, so your body takes longer to break it down,” says Harris-Pincus. That delay helps you stay fuller longer, which in turn lets you make clear-headed decisions about food throughout the day. As for soluble fiber, it can lower your cholesterol and keep your blood sugar from dipping and spiking, making you less likely to look to sugar-laden food sources for energy. Harris recommends aiming for around 25 grams of fiber a day to get your fill.

Try it: Have the best of both worlds with a salad that combines fruits and vegetables, like this thai chopped chicken mason jar salad from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. It features mango along with broccoli, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and more. Get the recipe here.

2. Oats

Pumpkin-Buckwheat-Overnight-OatsA round of applause for whole grains, veritable superstars in the healthy-carbohydrate game. Whole grains like oats, barley, and buckwheat are full of complex carbohydrates, which are far superior to their refined counterparts. “Your body needs to break down complex carbohydrates because they’re a complicated mesh of molecules,” says Harris-Pincus. That’s as opposed to refined carbohydrates loaded with sugar like cookies—they’re much easier to break down, so you burn through them and are ravenous way sooner.

Try it: These pumpkin pie overnight buckwheat oats from Nutritionist In The Kitch do whole-grain double duty. Get the recipe here.


3. Quinoa

Blackberry-Quinoa-Breakfast-BowlFunnily enough, quinoa is technically a seed instead of a whole grain. Along with supplying carbs and fiber, it’s also a good source of protein, which is great news for vegans looking to add more of it to their diets. “Quinoa is a plant source of complete protein, so it provides all the essential amino acids your body can’t produce on its own,” says Harris-Pincus. And since protein is the building block of muscle, getting enough is key for reaping the rewards of your workouts.

Try it: Start the day on an energized note with this blackberry quinoa breakfast bowl from The Almond Eater. Get the recipe here.

4. Air-Popped Popcorn

Olive-Oil-and-Parmesan-PopcornIn addition to being a whole grain and packing a bunch of fiber, air-popped popcorn gets you a lot of bang for your buck. “Portion-wise, it has a lower calorie per unit volume than many other snacks,” says Harris-Pincus. That means you can chow down on a lot more popcorn per serving than you’d be able to with, say, potato chips.

Try it: This olive oil and parmesan popcorn seasoning from Gimme Some Oven takes the plain stuff up a notch. Get the recipe here.


5. Spaghetti Squash

Roasted-Spaghetti-SquashEven though spaghetti squash is a go-to when people are cutting back on carbohydrates, all squash is starchy, which means they have more carbs than many other vegetables. That doesn’t mean they’re not well worth eating! “Spaghetti squash can give you a pretty hefty portion size but still fewer calories and carbs than pasta, plus you’re getting great fiber and nutrients,” says Harris-Pincus. And if you’re not down for substituting your pasta with a vegetable in disguise, consider Harris-Pincus’ genius hack: “You can mix half whole grain pasta and half spaghetti squash,” she says. “With just spaghetti squash, some people are like, ‘Why are you giving me a bowl of weeds?’ Adding in some pasta offers a totally different flavor, but it’s still a nutritious meal.”

Try it: This roasted spaghetti squash with parmesan and mushrooms dish from Well Plated is so simple, yet so Instagrammable. Get the recipe here.

6. Potatoes

Salmon-With-PotatoesWhite potatoes have an undeserved bad rap. “There’s nothing wrong with the potato, but it has to be in the right context,” says Harris-Pincus. “The problem is that people fry them, douse them in butter, or eat a lot of them.” When it comes to spuds, it’s all about portion and preparation.

People also worry about potatoes’ high glycemic load, or how easily they spike blood sugar. The thing is that when you eat high glycemic load foods along with nutrients like fat and protein, those nutrients help slow how quickly your body processes sugar. Unless you’re going to town on a potato without anything else, its glycemic load isn’t as relevant, says Harris-Pincus. Since potatoes are a great source of fiber, especially with the skin on, it can be worth it to experiment with preparing them in a healthy way.

Try it: This roasted salmon with lemony smashed potatoes from The Glossy Life provides carbs, protein, and fat for a meal that hits all its macronutrient bases. Get the recipe here.


7. Sweet Potatoes

Loaded-Black-Bean-Sweet-Potato-BoatsServing up fiber and a Pinterest-worthy color thanks to the antioxidant beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are an easy way to feel like you’re indulging while actually doing something great for your body, says Harris-Pincus.

Try it: Give one of the best comfort foods ever a healthy upgrade with these loaded black bean sweet potato boats from Minimalist Baker. Get the recipe here.


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