Carbs: one of the most debatable food categories. There are tonnes of diets out there promoting an elimination or severe reduction of carbohydrates in our meals to help us lose weight. But are carbs good or bad for us? Can we eat them and still lose weight? Are they healthy? Do they contribute to belly fat?
There's a simple answer to all of these questions: not all carbs are created equal. Our bodies need carbohydrates and utilise them as a fuel source. However, while some carbs can help us reach our health goals, others should be avoided because they tend to be processed to the point where they serve little to no nutritional purpose in our diets and add unnecessary weight to our midsections. Most "bad" carbs are void of fibre, which isn't great for our weight-loss goals. Fibre helps us stay fuller longer, can reduce gut inflammation, and increases metabolism. As a certified holistic nutritionist, rather than telling my clients to eliminate carbs, I educate them on the ones that should be taken out of their diets to help them reach their health goals. There are five types of carbs I always recommend avoiding, especially for those who are trying to lose belly fat.
Refined White-Flour Foods
This is more of an umbrella term as it includes a variety of foods. White-flour foods tend to be heavily refined and processed, which means that they have little to no nutritional value. Fibre and other nutrients are usually taken out during the processing phase of white-flour foods, so overeating, feeling less full, and feeling hungry again soon after eating them tends to happen. Studies have also shown that consuming too much of these types of foods can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
The main culprits? Varieties of foods made with white flour, such as:
- White bread
- White rice
- White pasta
- Flour tortillas
Try alternatives to these foods by purchasing or preparing their whole-grain counterparts, which tend to be higher in fibre.
There are several cereals on the market today that are full of unhealthy carbs. While many brands are marketed as being "low-fat" and healthy, it's important to read labels. When comparing different brands, be sure to look at the serving size, as they vary for different labels (one cup vs. 1/2 cup, etc.) and check the carbohydrate to fibre ratio. For example, a cup of Raisin Bran cereal is loaded with 46 grams of carbs and 18 grams of sugar, with only seven grams of fibre, whereas a cup of Ezekiel Flax Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal contains 74 grams of carbs, but with zero grams of sugar and 12 grams of fibre.
If you're having trouble finding a healthier cereal, try a mix of nuts, seeds, and raisins in your milk instead.
Jam, and Preserves
While a seemingly great addition to our morning toast (I mean, they're made of fruit, right?), jam, and preserves that can be bought conventionally have little nutritional value. That's because most brands simply add preservatives, sugar, and juice to give it its sweet flavour.
Try fresh-cut or mashed fruit on your toast instead. It still tastes great and is loads more nutritious.
While the right kind of yoghurt can deliver a beneficial amount of probiotics to help our digestive systems, sweetened yoghurt contains a high level of carbohydrates. One serving of Yoplait strawberry yoghurt contains 25 grams of carbohydrates and 18 grams of sugar.
Try adding fresh fruit to a cup of Greek yoghurt instead to up the ante on protein, vitamins, and minerals.
OK, beer isn't considered food, but it's worth a spot on our list. In just one 12-ounce glass, there can be over 20 grams of carbs. The problem is that beer is devoid of many nutrients and is considered to simply be carbohydrates in liquid form. There's a reason the term "beer belly" exists.
Remember to keep in mind that carbs are not the enemy. Some just happen to be healthier for you than others. If your goal is to lose weight in your midsection, then try to avoid these five types of carbohydrates.