Carbohydrates often get a bad rap when it comes to a healthy eating plan. But not all carbs are created equal. While on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet, you’ll enjoy “good carbs,” such as nonstarchy vegetables and legumes, and eliminate all starchy and sugary carbs to help balance your blood-sugar levels and control cravings. When you reach Phase 2 of the diet, after just two weeks, more good carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, and certain starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes and winter squash, will be reintroduced. The key to choosing healthy carbs is to focus on those that are high in fiber.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
Good carbohydrates include those found in nutritious, high-fiber fruits and vegetables, legumes, and unrefined whole grains, including certain types of rice, such as brown and wild. Unfortunately, fiber is often removed from grains during processing to produce a smoother texture and to extend the shelf life of breads and other baked goods. Without fiber, processed grains essentially become chains of glucose (sugar) molecules known as starches, which are devoid of nutrients. These “bad carbs” must be avoided on a healthy diet. Besides being packed with vitamins and minerals, good carbohydrate foods typically contain plenty of fiber, which takes longer to digest, thus keeping blood-sugar levels steady — and cravings and hunger at bay.
Buying Foods with Quality Carbs
When you pick up a product, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel. This will show you the total amount of carbohydrates and how much of that total comes from fiber (and/or sugar). The higher the fiber in a product the better it is (refined-flour products often have very little). Then look at the ingredients list to see where the fiber is coming from. When it comes to grain products, the first ingredient should have the word “whole” (and ideally 100% whole) in front of a specific grain (like whole wheat and whole oats) or should list a lesser-known (but still whole) grain, like brown rice, bulgur, kamut, millet, or quinoa. Finally, for the healthiest choices when it comes to breads, looks for whole-grain breads that contain no trans fats and at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per slice.