What are “smart carbs”?

You may see me refer to smart carbohydrates from time to time and the question about good and bad carbs comes up a lot so I thought I would try and help differentiate how we should view carbohydrates.
“Smart carbs” are carbohydrates that are health-promoting, slow-digesting, and nutrient-rich.  These carbs are high-grade fuel for the elegant and fine machine that is your body.
Smart carbs include:
✅ beans and legumes
✅ whole, minimally-processed grains, such as quinoa, brown or wild rice, slow-cooking oats, buckwheat, sprouted grains, etc
And then:-
✅ fruit (fresh or frozen). Berries and high fibre seasonal fruits are higher in the list than tropical and non-seasonal fruits.
Then to a lesser extent as the higher energy carbs, these might need limiting depending on whether you are planning to be active or sedentary today.
✅ starchy tubers, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, yuca/cassava, etc.
✅ other starchy fruits and veggies, such as plantains or sweet winter squashes (e.g. Hubbard, butternut etc)
Not so smart: Refined sugary carbs
These include “foods” like:
⬇️ pastries, such as cakes, cupcakes, and muffins
cookies and bars, including those “tricky” protein and nutrition bars
🔽 sweets: candies, chocolate, etc.
🔽 sweet drinks: fruit juices, soda, and other sweetened drinks (including sports drinks) sweetened dried fruits: raisins, dried cranberries, banana chips, dried dates or figs, etc.
. . . and pretty much anything that’s processed and comes in a bottle, bag, or box.
Refined carbohydrates have almost no fibre or beneficial nutrients. Unlike smart carbs, they subtract value from our bodies. You don’t feel full, pleasantly satisfied, nor well-nourished when you eat these. You often just feel kinda lousy. (And worse, you often want more.) Leave these foods for special occasions, like dessert after a fancy restaurant meal, snacks at your Eurovision party, or a slice of cake on your birthday. (Then eat them slowly and enjoy them.)
So, what’s a smart carb choice again?
Keep it simple.
More fibre and nutrients + whole foods = more value. Smart.
Less fibre and fewer nutrients + processing = less value. Not so smart.
Always look to add more value to your diet.
The carb continuum
We don’t believe in “good” or “bad” foods.
We believe in being just a little bit better, one step at a time.
Today, just think about how you can make your carbs just a little bit smarter.
How could you move just one “notch” along the continuum towards healthier options?
And, as always, eat everything slowly, to 80% full.
Image and Words – Precision Nutrition Coaching.  Go visit their website and socials for more gems of wisdom (PrecisionNutrition.com)
best breakfasts for diabetes
About the Author

James Belbin is the one of the UKs leading nutritionists and habit changes coaches. Specialising in Type 2 Diabetes,  I provide straightforward, personalised no-nonsense guides that help people make significant changes to their nutrition and lifestyle. As an evidence-based nutritionist and habit change coach I can identify the aspects of your diet and lifestyle that are working well for you and build on them. 

I’m a Type 2 Diabetic in remission and lifelong yo-yo dieter so I understand what you’re going through. 

If you’re trying to understand your diabetes diagnosis and how it affects your lifestyle I can help.  

James Belbin - Nutritionist

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