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April 2022

What are High Quality Carbs?

Over the years carbs have gotten a reputation, with talk of good carbs, bad carbs and even no carbs!  While it is true that not all are created equal, carbs should not be eliminated completely.  They are the foundation of a healthy eating pattern.  In fact, studies have revealed that high quality carbs, especially those with fiber, can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. So, when it comes to carbs, the quality really does matter!

Carbohydrate (Carb) Basics
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. Foods containing carbs also deliver vital nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.  There are three types of carbohydrates: starches, dietary fiber and sugar.

  • Starches – are from plant-based foods such as beans, potatoes, rice and other grain products.
  • Dietary Fiber – is the indigestible part of plant foods that help with digestive and heart health, weight management and blood sugar.
  • Sugars – occur naturally in foods such as fruit & dairy products, however there are also sources of added sugars. These sugars are found in highly processed foods, including baked goods, candy and soft drinks.

The healthiest carbs are from produce, whole grains and legumes. These carbs form the foundation of the Mediterranean eating pattern and are high quality.

Be Selective Choose High Quality Carbs
High quality carbohydrates have more fiber, whole grains and less added sugar. They are nutrient-rich in a “natural package” that can keep blood sugar & insulin levels in check.   How to identify and get more out of healthy carbs:

  • Choose minimally processed carbs including fresh whole fruits & vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
  • Limit highly processed foods as they are usually higher in sugar and lower in fiber.
  • Keep fruit and vegetable juices to a minimum and be mindful of the portion size, 1/2 cup. Even 100% juice can lack fiber and be high in sugar.
  • Minimize foods with added sugar, especially fructose. Most sugar is from baked goods, sweet drinks, candy & ice cream.
  • Try these whole grains: quinoa, buckwheat, kasha, wild rice or polenta.
  • Be mindful of portions: non-starchy vegetables should make up 1/2 and whole grains 1/4 of your plate.
  • Limit & enjoy sweets wisely by eating them slowly and savoring them.  Have fresh whole fruit for dessert more often.

Check Food Labels
Use the nutrition facts and the ingredient label to help identify the quality of carbs.  Check the amount of added sugar and grams of fiber on the nutrition facts label. Minimize added sugar while aiming for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.  Refer to the ingredient information to verify the product is a whole grain. The first ingredient listed must be a whole grain.  The ingredient list helps identify if the food is processed. The rule of thumb: the fewer ingredients, the less it is processed.


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