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Yes, You Can Eat Carbs

For many people, carbs are a very scary thing. This is mainly because of low-carb diets with over-simplified claims that say all carbs are bad.

Well, let’s take a quick peak into what carbs actually are to see things a little differently.

Carbohydrates are made by plants through photosynthesis, the process by which plants use water, carbon, and chlorophyll to convert sunlight into energy. (Remember that from science class?)

So when we eat foods containing carbohydrates, we are eating fuel from the sun. In turn, our bodies convert that fuel into glucose to supply the major source of energy for most of our bodily functions.

That said, there are two types of carbohydrates: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates in foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, whole fruit, and vegetables are healthiest because the essential fiber and other nutrients are intact. So they enter your bloodstream gradually, which means your blood sugar level remains steady. The fiber in foods with complex carbohydrates also protect against major chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

On the other hand, simple carbohydrates in foods like white sugar, white rice, white bread, white pasta, and white flour, have had the fiber and most nutrients removed in the “refining” process. So they enter and leave your bloodstream quickly, causing a temporary spike then a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, and the premature return of hunger pangs. This can have a dangerous effect on the body, especially for people with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

So all carbs are not the same. You do want to eat complex carbs, but not simple carbs. And one of the easiest ways to eat more complex carbs is to eat whole grains.

Here’s a list of 14 whole grains and how to cook them. This week, swap out any simple or refined grains you may normally cook with for at least three of these whole grains. Grains with an asterisk are gluten-free. And don’t forget that whole grain pasta and bread count, too. Just check the ingredients to be sure they use only 100% whole grains. If the ingredients include “flour,” “unbleached flour,” or “rice,” then that means white flour and white rice.

WHOLE GRAINS COOKING CHART

To 1 Cup of This Grain: Add This Much Water: Bring to Boil, Then Simmer: Cooked, Makes:
Amaranth* 3 cups 45-60 min 3½ cups
Barley 3 cups 45-60 min 3½ cups
Black Rice* 2 cups 30 min 3 cups
Brown Rice* 2½ cups 25-45 min 3 cups
Buckwheat* 2 cups 20 min 4 cups
Bulgur 2 cups 10-12 min 3 cups
Corn Grits or Polenta* 4 cups 25-30 min 2½ cups
Einkorn 2 cups 25-35 min 3 cups
Farro 2½ cups 25-40 min 3 cups
Millet* 2 ½ cups 25-35 min 4 cups
Oats (steel cut)** 4 cups 20 min 4 cups
Quinoa* 2 cups 12-15 min 3 cups
Teff* 3 cups 20 min 2½ cups
Wild Rice* 3 cups 45-55 3½ cups

*Gluten-Free
**Oats are gluten-free, but are commonly grown and processed with wheat, so make sure the packaging is labeled gluten-free
Excerpted from WholeGrainsCouncil.org

And let me note here that sometimes people find changing to fiber-rich foods may cause gas and bloating. If you find this happening to you, start with more easily digested grains, like quinoa and oats, until your digestive system becomes adjusted.