Who said all carbs were evil? (Photo: Getty Images/Yahoo Health)
If you’re looking to drop a few extra pounds, chances are adding carbs to your diet is just about the last thing on your list. But don’t count them out: Research shows complex carbohydrates can actually be powerful weight-loss allies.
Harvard University researchers found that people who ate whole grains, as well as vegetables, gained less weight over a 20-year period, according to a 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Another study found that people who choose whole grains over refined grains have lower body fat.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about carbs, especially the idea that carbs cause weight gain,” Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian in private practice in Manhattan and creator of the F-Factor Diet, tells Yahoo Health. “Many dieters view all carbohydrates as one group, not realizing that carbs aren’t just starches such as pasta, cereals, and bagels. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all carbohydrates as well."
Whole grains help with weight loss and weight maintenance because they contain filling dietary fiber — which is actually a complex carbohydrate. Women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 38 grams per day, but most Americans get about 9 to 11 grams of fiber per day, notes Zuckerbrot. "This fiber deficit is why so many people walk around hungry and overeat,” she says.
Related: 25 Of The Best Foods For Fiber
But fiber has no calories and adds bulk to meals, which is why “foods high in fiber, such as berries, whole-wheat and whole-grain breads, and non-starchy vegetables, are both filling and naturally low in calories,” Zuckerbrot adds.
Need some guidance? Check out these five carb-containing foods that can actually help you lose weight:
One cup of this superseed packs 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of filling protein. In fact, quinoa is considered a “complete food” because it contains all nine essential amino acids. Bonus: It’s also rich in disease-fighting antioxidants.
(Photo: Camilo Rueda Lopez/Flickr)
Skip the calorie-laden movie theater popcorn and go for natural air-popped popcorn instead. “A large, three-cup serving provides a high-volume treat that has only 93 calories,” says Zuckerbrot. Plus, popcorn has 3 grams of fiber, so it’s a snack that’s super-filling.
Beans are a great source of both fiber and vegetarian protein. A one-cup serving of kidney beans has a whopping 11 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein, while a half-cup of lentils contains 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. “Beans are a great source of lean protein, which our body uses to build and maintain healthy muscle tissue,” notes Zuckerbrot. “Healthy muscle mass is key for weight control because it is our body’s calorie-torching metabolic machine.” You can use beans in broth-based soups, chili, and over brown rice or salads.
High-fiber crackers, such as Wasa Fiber Crispbread, GG Bran Crispbread and FiberRich Crispbread, contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, according to Zuckerbrot. “Fiber is a nutrient that contains zero calories, so high-fiber crackers are far lower in calories than other versions,” she says. “They can be enjoyed as a snack or used in place of bread, [or] topped with lean proteins such as turkey slices, peanut butter, or tuna fish. Crushed crumbs are also a lighter and more filling alternative to bread crumbs and can substitute for croutons in salads and soups.”
(Photo: Daniella Segura/Flickr)
Compared with ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, oatmeal is better at increasing feelings of fullness and reducing hunger pangs, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of the American College Nutrition. Just be sure to not drown your oatmeal in maple syrup. Instead, flavor steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon, fresh berries, and chopped nuts for added flavor and fullness that will last for hours.
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