Limiting carbohydrates might be an effective short-term weight-loss strategy, but scientists are discovering it’s perhaps not the best meal plan for a long life.
That’s because not all carbs are created equal, and often people who forgo carbs replace them with more animal proteins. Too much of those can lead to kidney trouble and increase inflammation levels in the body.
Carbs are our bodies’ preferred fuel source, and though eating one type of carb – sugar – can expand your waistline, that’s not true of other sources of carbs like starches and fibre. Our bodies actually can’t absorb dietary fibre at all, so those carbs help us better digest food, keeping bellies satisfied while protecting the body from disease.
Rigorous scientific studies are increasingly showing us that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, and legumes like beans and peas while avoiding processed foods are more likely to live longer, cancer-free lives. A diet rich in whole foods such as plants can’t be super low-carb, but it can be filled with good carbs.
“There’s absolutely nothing more important for our health than what we eat each and every day,” Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist and nutrition researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said.
Seidelmann's study of more than 447,000 people around the world found that people who ate a moderate amount of carbs and stuck mainly to plant-based meals lived longer than those who fuelled up on animal proteins or refined carbs.
If you’re wondering which carbs are the best for your body, here are a few dietitian-approved choices:
Unlike processed grains, wholegrains have outer shells of bran and germ that provide protein and fibre, which help keep you full.
Eating wholegrains can also lower your chance of having a stroke, help regulate blood pressure, and reduce your risk of developing diabetes, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
To incorporate more wholegrains into your diet, look for breads and pastas that are “100 per cent whole wheat” or “100 per cent whole grain”. Remember, wheat flour is only about 25 per cent whole wheat.
Also remember that wholegrains aren’t limited to wheat, oats and brown rice. You can also try incorporating more barley, quinoa, Ethiopian teff or wild rice into meals.
Pulses including peas, lentils and beans
“Pulses are excellent sources of healthy, slow-digesting carbs packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and phytochemicals,” said Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian who wrote the book The Plant-Powered Diet.
The phytochemicals in plants that give them colour and flavour are cancer preventers, too, since they can help lower inflammation in the body.
Green peas, for example, are filled with bone-protecting potassium and belly-satisfying protein. They are also sweet and rich in folate, which is critical for cells to grow and function properly. Aside from the green kind, there are also chickpeas, which are used to make hummus.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A, B6, and C. It’s best not to gorge on the sweet orange roots because they have a high glycemic index, which can temporarily spike blood sugar. But a bit of cooked sweet potato mixed into a salad or roasted as a side dish is a good dinner choice.
Instead of baking or frying, boil potatoes with the skins on for about 20 minutes to retain the most nutrients, according to Harvard Health.
Squash, which can be added to soups, roasted or blended into casseroles, is a rich superfood. Many types contain some natural sugar, but they’re also high in lutein, which is good for the eyes.
Squash also packs enough protein and fibre to keep you full for a while, while providing magnesium and potassium for bone health.
Limited amounts of fruit
Fruits like bananas and apples are often banned on low-carb diets since they contain natural sugars. But eating a bit of fruit isn’t bad for you, especially when you consume it whole instead of blending it into a smoothie or juice.
Eating an apple with its fibrous skin on delivers about double the fibre, 25 per cent more potassium, and 40 per cent more vitamin A, according to The Washington Post.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider .