Choosing Smart Carbs

Eat complex carbohydrates, not the simple ones. Complex carbs are grains, fruits and vegetables. Simple carbs are cookies, candy and cake. Complex carbs take awhile to break down in the body and therefore provide long, lasting energy throughout the day. Simple carbs break down quickly causing a burst of energy lasting only for a short period of time (sugar high), followed by fatigue.

Complex carbs are unprocessed and unrefined and typically don't have added sugar, salt or fat. They often have a low glycemic index, which means they don't raise blood sugar and insulin levels as quickly as processed foods.They are also easy to find in the grocery store. Look for anything that says "whole grain" or "multi-grain." Next time you grab a loaf of bread, rolls or pasta, look for those words on the package.

Here are several suggestions for choosing complex carbs:

  • Choose a baked potato instead of French fries
  • Eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread 
  • Start the day with oatmeal, rather than a sugary breakfast cereal

Other examples of complex carbs are any type of berries, nuts, seeds, eggs and green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, asparagus or kale. These all contain antioxidants which help prevent cancer, help the heart function and clean up free radicals.

It's nearly impossible to cut out sugary desserts and the sweet cravings we get. Diets that suggest you cut out cake, chocolate and fast food burgers often don't work because they put constraints on people and eventually, they break it or cheat.

It's still fine to enjoy our fatty and sugary foods, just in moderation. As long as you keep a balanced diet, you won't have to feel guilty about eating a fun-size Snickers.

Items to Avoid

While eating these in moderation is okay, there are still some red flag items that are linked to obesity and type II diabetes. Do your best to stay away from these:

  • Artificial sweeteners. Don't be fooled by labels that say "fat free!" and "contains no sugar!"
  • Salad bars. A salad from a restaurant can have more calories than a Big Mac.
  • Soda. These caloric, sugar-sweetened beverages have contributed to skyrocketing rates of obesity and type II diabetes. There is even evidence that diet soda can lead to weight gain. You shouldn't rely on beverages for nourishment or to satisfy cravings.  There are 150 calories in a can of soda. By cutting one soda a day, you could potentially lose 16 pounds in a year.

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