For years we’ve been hearing that cutting carbs should be a cornerstone of most diets when you’re trying to lose weight … but not so fast! Turns out, there are some carbs you’re going to want to keep around.
A member of the cereal grains, barley may have the ability to increase the levels of a hormone tied to satiety. A study from Sweden discovered that boiled barley kernels can change bacteria in your gut, which in turn can rev up the metabolism. Researchers also found that this fiber-rich starch was shown to “decrease hunger sensations.” You can tie this nut-like food into your diet by using it in baked goods and breakfast items (like pancakes and waffles) or tossing it in salads and soups.
Oatmeal has a reputation for being a warm, snuggly comfort food—which means when you start dieting and cutting out carbs, it’s the first to go. But registered dietitian and Los Angeles-based entertainment nutritionist Shira Lenchewski, M.S., says she’s a huge advocate of oatmeal. She explains that its complex carbs (aka the “good” carbs) not only fill you up, but they’ll make you less likely to go overboard at lunch (or approach the vending machine before noon). Just make sure to steerclear from brands with added sweetener and flavourings—instead Lenchewski recommends using cinnamon, almond butter, or a teaspoon of coconut sugar for extra flavour.
3. MAPLE WATER
Sure, maple water doesn’t sound like it would be a carb-offender, but the dose of sugar (which is also referred to as a simple carb or fast-acting carb) may make some assume it’s a “bad” beverage. But here’s the sweet truth (humor our punniness): “Although coconut water seems to get all the attention these days, maple water is some healthy competition,” states Lenchewski. For starters, it contains about half the sugar of coconut water and only about 20 calories per 8-ounce serving. “And because it contains nutrients, such as manganese, iron, and calcium, maple water makes for an A+ option for replenishing fluids after a sweaty workout.”
Who needs potato chips? OK, so maybe we need potato chips, but having a go-to substitute should help wean our addiction. In a study that compared the short-term satiety of these two popular snacks, food and health researchers from around the country found that most volunteers reportedly felt less hunger and more satisfaction after eating popcorn. If you’re more satisfied, odds are you’ll be eating less, ergo, taking in less calories.
Since this powerhouse grain contains nearly twice as much fiber as other grains, that fiber gets released much slower into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels balanced, which in turn increases your metabolism. Also, compared to other modified gluten-free foods, quinoa (which is naturally gluten-free) has been shown to aid in weight loss since it produces lower free fatty acid levels (which is linked to insulin resistance).
6. ROASTED CHICKPEAS
For a satisfying crunch, chickpeas should be toward the top of your snack list, because they’re loaded with fiber and protein. A 2014 study states that eating pulses — a specific family of legumes that includes chickpeas, beans, peas, and lentils — can prevent overeating and help keep weight regulated. Roast some soaked chickpeas at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, and add about 3 tablespoons oil and your favorite spices for a taste-bud-customized, crunchy snack, says Lenchewski.
7. WHOLE-GRAIN RYE CRISPBREAD
When you’re craving those crunchy, crusty carbs, this is what you should be snacking on to keep your appetite in check — it’s made from whole-grain rye, high in fiber, low in sodium, and totally fat-free. In fact, researchers from Sweden discovered that whole-grain rye bread ranked number one among the various rye flours when it came to controlling blood sugars and regulating appetite. And whole grain is the way to go if you’re looking to reduce belly fat, say experts at Penn State University. After putting 50 obese men and women on a lower-calorie diet for 12 weeks, the group that ate more whole grains showed a significant decrease in abdominal fat compared to those who were given processed grains.
8. SWEET POTATOES
Keep a couple of these orange root vegetables in your pantry for when you want to satisfy your carb craving and sweet tooth (OK — so it’s no candy bar, but c’mon). A medium-size sweet potato contains about 27 grams of carbs, but they’ve been shown to increase levels of adiponectin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, and in turn helps encourage a faster metabolism. They’re also fat-free and have fewer calories and sodium than white potatoes
9. WHOLE-GRAIN BREAKFAST CEREAL
It looks like Cheerios had it right the whole time! Whole-grain cereals are naturally low in fat and high in fiber, and according to researchers can decease the size of your waistline. One study showed that men and women who consumed more whole-grain cereals had a much lower body mass index (BMI) and less abdominal fat. “This study takes the evidence a step further and shows that people who eat more whole-grain foods have lower abdominal fat,” says lead researcher Nicola McKeown.
Whole-grain breakfast cereal
10. 2% PLAIN GREEK YOGHURT
While this dairy product may not seem like the typical carb, the naturally occurring milk sugars (aka simple carbs) may scare some people away, but they shouldn’t — because this creamy snack can help you take off those unwanted extra pounds. Research has found that consuming probiotic yogurt (along with a low-calorie diet) can reduce your body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage. Lenchewski explains that low-fat Greek yogurt provides a powerful combination of natural sugar and satiating fat, along with packing a major protein punch. “And the healthy fats and protein can prevent blood sugar levels from dropping, which will help keep sugar cravings at bay.”