Hands up if you’re ever heard yourself or a friend saying, “I want to lose weight, I’m cutting out CARBS”. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that carbs make us FAT and that we should STAY AWAY from CARBS! Well that’s absolute rubbish, that’s because NOT all carbs are created equal!
Just take a look at this picture, everything here are CARBS! If your diet is filled mainly with low quality carbs, which has pretty much no nutrients but is high in calories, then yes, you will overeat and gain weight.
However, high quality carbs are packed with nutrients and slow digesting. Adding these carbs into your diet CAN help you burn body fat and speed up weight loss. I like to call them “SMART CARBS”.
What are SMART CARBS?
They are extremely nutrient dense
They are high in fibre
They will improve your digestion
They will help to stabilise blood sugar
They will keep your energy at an even level
They will help you feel satisfied longer after your meal
They will increase your physical performance
They will not be highly refined
Let’s talk about the 11 SMART CARBS you should be adding into your diet:
1) Sweet Potato
Do you know that the Okinawan staple food is purple sweet potato? The residents in Okinawa, Japan have some of the longest lifespan in the entire world - 85 years for men and 87.3 years for women. An Okinawan reaching 100 years of age has a BMI of 20.4 in their early adulthood and middle age.
Despite the name, in comparison to potatoes, sweet potatoes are less starchy and contain less calories.
Sweet potatoes are superior when it comes to their Vitamin A content. A cup of cooked sweet potato contains 3,000 times the amount of vitamin A as a potato. It is also naturally sweet, which can be added into your meals without addition sweeteners.
I love having sweet potatoes as my pre or post workout snack to give me the energy boost and to satisfy my muscles! But that doesn’t mean that regular potatoes should be avoided completely. They are also packed with nutrients and fibre. If consumed in moderation with protein, it can also be part of a healthy diet.
Are you doing everything right but somehow you’re not getting a flat belly? No matter how hard you train, or how well you eat, a bloated belly can make even the most toned stomach look a bit pudgy.
It’s time to add high carb bananas into your diet. Bananas are very rich in potassium, a natural diuretic that reduces water retention and bloating, hence giving you flatter belly.
Bananas are also rich in glucose, a highly digestible sugar, which provides quick energy. Hence it’s always the number one snack choice for endurance based activities such as running a marathon.
Do you know that consuming 2 bananas prior to your workout can help to sustain up to 90 minutes of steady paced cardio? Their low GI and high fibre also means carbs are slowly released into your body, preventing sugar crashes and spurring the process of muscle recovery. Add banana into your diet to boost your workout performance and improve digestive health.
I love squash, whether it’s pumpkin, butternut squash or acorn squash.
I mean hear this, 100g of baked squash has only 37 calories and is loaded with Vitamin A, C and Calcium. Eating food rich in Vitamin C can help to improve physical performance and reduce fatigue. Which also means, your body will become a more effective fat burning machine. And of course, calcium is extremely important for bone health. Squash is also high in antioxidants which helps to maintain your youthful appearance.
They’re delicious roasted, added onto salads or blended to make creamy soups or stew. It’s perfect all year round. Because it’s so low in calories, but filling, it’s hard to overeat and you should be adding this amazing food into your diet.
What’s your favourite squash? Let me know in the comments below.
4) Rolled Oats
Start your morning with Oats! It’s low in GI and rich in fibre. A bowl of oats for breakfast can easily last you till lunch without feeling peckish. Majority of the fibre in oats is soluble fibre. Just think of it like a sponge, it soaks up water, and expands in the stomach to slow down digestion, hence keeping you fuller longer.
Eating low GI carbs causes a steady rise in your blood sugar which will be used for immediate energy, rather than stored as body fat. Choose pure rolled oats and add your own toppings such as nuts and seeds, fruits or cinnamon powder. Stay away from the instant oatmeal with its added sweeteners and flavouring!
Beetroot is a non starchy high carb vegetable. A half-cup portion of sliced beets has 8.5g of total carbs - which consist of 1.7g of dietary fibre and 6.8g of sugar. The natural sweetness in beetroot makes it the ideal weight loss food. Instead of using sweeteners, you can simply add beetroot into your baked goods, roast them, make juices or add onto salad to enhance the flavour of your dish.
I’m sure some of you might have come across the “trend” of drinking beet juice prior to a prolong workout. Well there’s actually an explanation behind that. Beetroot is high in inorganic nitrates, which is known to enhance physical performance during endurance exercises. It makes the muscles more fuel-efficient, thereby enhancing stamina. One study has shown that just by drinking half a litre of beet juice every day can enable cyclists to cycle 16% longer without getting exhausted.
So this “trend” is worth following!
I’m sure you must have heard of this super grain by now. Quinoa is incredibly popular because it contains all nine essential amino acids, which our body needs to build and maintain lean muscles. The more muscles you have, the more calories you burn, which also means quicker weight loss.
Every cup of cooked quinoa contains 8g of protein and 5g of fibre, with no saturated fats. It is also gluten free. So reduce your meat consumption and add quinoa into your diet. Instead of your typical morning cereals, try quinoa for breakfast!
Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and it’s not a grain. The edible portion is a seed from a plant related to greens like rhubarb.
Instead of consuming traditional pasta, try replacing with buckwheat noodles also known as soba noodles.
Traditional pasta, is made out of refined flour and tends to be higher in calories, sugars and carbohydrates. Soba noodles on the other hand, have less calories, more fiber and more protein.
Each cup of cooked soba noodles contains about 113Cals, whereas white spaghetti contains 220Cals and the whole-wheat version contains 174Cals. Just by applying this simply swap into your diet, it will help you reduce your calorie intake, which will contribute to weight loss.
Growing up, I remember drinking barley water almost on a daily basis. Whenever we don’t feel too well, we’re always told to consume barley. What is it about barley that makes this food a SMART CARB?
This underrated grain is one of the world’s oldest superfoods, which is loaded with all the essential nutrients. It is also a killer appetite suppressant that helps reduce your cravings.
So if you want, you can replace rice with barley. You can make stir-fry barley rice, risotto, barley soup or stew or toss into salads.
Pearled barley is the most common barley, but barley groats or whole hull-less barley contain even more healthy nutrients. You’ll be getting 20 to 25% of your daily fibre in just one serving!
9) Black Bean
Beans are a great source of protein that’s packed with fibre. 1/2 cup of boiled black beans have 120Cals, 22.5g carbs, 7.5g of protein and 8g of fibre. They are also rich in folate - a B vitamin that fuels muscle growth and copper, which strengthens the tendons.
They are rich in soluble fibre, which aids in reducing the deep visceral fat that contributes to belly fat and increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
Bean eaters have a 23% lower risk of an expanding waistline and a 22% reduced risk of being obese. Beans are a cheap source of protein making it an excellent choice for both plant-based and even meat eaters. Preferably, buy the low sodium version and remember to rinse any canned beans to reduce the sodium content.
This super-grain has a lot of similarities to quinoa. It’s high in protein, fibre and is gluten-free. One cup of cooked Amaranth has 252cals, 46g carbs, 5g dietary fibre and 9g protein, compared to white rice at 45g carbs, only 1.2g dietary fibre and 4.2g protein.
Though Amaranth is considered a native plant of Peru, it is now grown around the world in countries including China, Russia, Thailand, Nigeria and Mexico. When cooked, it becomes porridge like, making it a perfect breakfast option. In fact, you can even pop it. Popped amaranth can be topped onto toast or added into granola bars.
If you haven’t given this super-grain a try, it’s time to add this into your diet.
11) Air-popped popcorn
And the final SMART CARB I have to include is popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain, which means it’s a good source of dietary fibre. It is also gluten free, sugar free and fat free. Air-popped popcorn is a great low-calorie snack option.
One cup of plain air-popped popcorn only has about 31Cals! It has a lower calorie per unit volume compared to many other snacks making it an ideal option for weight loss. You will feel more satisfied when snacking on popcorn in comparison to eating chips, pretzels or nachos, which also tend to be higher in sodium and fat.
Just be aware of flavoured popcorn as they will pack on additional sugar, sodium and fat, which can ruin your diet.
I hope this video has convinced you to start adding SMART CARBS into your diet, even if you are on a low-carb diet. Your body NEEDS carbs to be in its best state and to speed up weight loss.
If you’re constantly feeling hungry, or you don’t feel satisfied even after a big meal. Or perhaps you’re feeling cranky, you struggle to focus and you don’t feel like you’re improving in your workout, those are signs that your body is lacking in carbs.
Consume SMART carbs in moderation and you will start to feel and see the difference in your physical appearance, energy level and even your state of mind.