Smart Carb Options

With the rise of diabetes, the boom of the gluten-free trend, and an increasing link between refined sugar and chronic disease, more and more Canadians are looking for alternative and “smarter” carb options.

Why smart carb options will be trending in 2017

Carbohydrates aren't the "bad guys” of nutrition. These nutrients are important to fuel our bodies, healthy gut bugs and brains. In 2017, experts want to clear up the confusion about carbs and help Canadians enjoy all the health benefits associated with carbs.

 

What are the health benefits of smart carb options?

This year, expect to see carb options that promote more balanced energy levels, digestion and brain function a result of growing product innovations.

Our body’s fuel of choice is glucose, which can be obtained from our diet or produced by our liver by converting stored fat and protein to glucose. The ultimate purpose is to provide energy to all of our body's cells, including our muscles, which are essential for everything from running to breathing to keeping our heart beating. Glucose is also essential for brain function. Keeping a balanced blood sugar level protects our body from damage to the interior of our blood vessels caused by too much sugar. Opting for smart carb options can help to normalize our energy levels and keep a level head.

Refined carbohydrates found in pastries, white breads and most starchy pasta noodles stress our body's systems, including overwhelming the digestive tract, spiking insulin levels and pressuring the pancreas. Choosing smart carb options that are rich in fibre allows your body time to break down and absorb them, which is good for all of our digestive organs. Fibre, one of the most powerful smart carbs, feeds the good gut bugs in our digestive tract that can help with everything from improving mood to weight maintenance.

Meals high in complex carbs not only stimulate fullness, but also increase neurotransmitters like 5-HTP and serotonin, our "feel-good" hormones, as well as boost our melatonin, which is associated with better sleep. Carbohydrates help to fuel the brain, so we need a healthy balance of sugar to keep our minds active and healthy.

How you can incorporate smart carbs into your 2017 healthy habits

Typical whole-food sources of smart or “complex” carbohydrates include legumes, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, fruits and vegetable, and whole grains. When looking for new and trendy sources in 2017, you'll start to see smart carbs working their way into many of your favourite foods.

Look out for bean pasta, which is a gluten-free, protein-packed alternative to traditional spaghetti noodles that also contain high amounts of fibre for better digestion and promotes healthy weight management.

Shirataki or “miracle” noodles are also an interesting alternative to traditional pasta noodles, made from konjac yam. They mimic the taste and texture of traditional spaghetti, but are low-carb, gluten-free and low-calorie!

If you have a hard time with the idea of letting go of the traditional pasta noodles you know and love, consider going the route of noodles with added legume flour. For example, studies reveal that adding split pea powder to whole wheat noodles significantly improved the body's ability to break down starches.

If you’re on-the-go and still want the high-quality energy provided by smart carbs outside of pasta, consider adding powders like maltodextrin and waxy maize into your protein shake or smoothie in 2017, which are great carb sources for post-workout regimens that improve muscle glycogen recovery for energy and don’t spike inflammatory responses. And for that late-night snack attack or movie-night carb fix, healthier options are hitting store shelves this year, including bean chips and other low-fat bean and pea snacks that satisfy your need for crunch without the spike and crash of conventional snacks.

It's never been easier to incorporate smart carbs into your daily routine than in 2017. Head to your local CHFA Member health food store for tons of fun options.