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Choosing the Right Carbs

Not only are carbs delicious, but they’re little powerhouses, too. Carbs provide the raw energy your body needs to get through the day. So pile ‘em on, right?

Well, not exactly.

Carbohydrates come in two varieties, complex and simple. Complex carbs are like a log in your fireplace, burning slowly but giving off a consistent amount of energy. Simple carbs, on the other hand, are more like firecrackers: lots of energy, but short lived. If you think about this in terms of your body, you can understand why you’d want to eat fewer of the simple variety. They burn off quickly, and when they’re gone, you crash.

But now comes the tricky part. You have to be able to figure out which is which when you’re at the market. As you’re perusing nutrition facts and ingredient lists, you want to avoid added sugars, the source of those simple carbs you’re trying to cut back on. Look for words ending in “ose,” like fructose or sucrose, as those tend to be sugars. And the higher up they appear on the list of ingredients, the more of them there are. In fact, almost any sweetener you might add to your morning coffee or sprinkle on your grapefruit is a simple carb, whether it’s a spoonful of sugar or a drizzle of agave nectar.

But let’s move onto those good carbs. You want foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, like starchy vegetables. Pumpkins, squash, many beans and sweet potatoes are loaded with complex carbs. Another great source? Whole grains. When you’re in the bread aisle, don’t just plop any old loaf into your cart. Look for breads made with whole grains like oats, rye, and barley because they’re chock full of good carbs.

And while you’re shopping, why not try out something new? Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a superfood and a whole grain, and can be used in any number of ways, as a rice substitute, in soups, or even as a salad topper. Also, don’t be afraid to try millet or bulger, grains often used in African and Middle Eastern cuisines.

There you have it. A quick guide to picking delicious foods that will keep you healthy and keep your energy up all day long.