As we head into the holiday season, my priorities are as follows: perfecting my pecan pie recipe, online gift shopping, and consuming all the carb-filled comfort foods I can get my sanitized hands on. Sound familiar? Good for you! Seriously—buying presents and baking desserts aside, nutrition experts agree: carbs are not bad for you.
“Over the years, carbs have gotten a bad reputation, while low-carb diets, such as Keto and Atkins, have become increasingly popular for their fast weight loss claims,” says Frances-Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of The Carb Lovers Diet Cookbook. “Carbs, however, are not only delicious, but they also provide some of the most beneficial nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy, and can even help you stave off weight gain.”
In fact, Largeman-Roth says that eating more resistant starch—a carbohydrate that resists digestion—can help you feel more energized, less stressed, and more satiated, as well as steady your blood sugar levels. (And as a type 1 diabetic, I can 100 percent attest to that statement). Here are the seven healthiest carb-filled, resistant starch-rich foods that we should be eating every day, according to Largeman-Roth.
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Bananas are your richest source of resistant starch, with ripe ones offering 4.7 grams and less-ripe (slightly green) bananas containing a whopping 12.5 grams. They are also rich in appetite-suppressing fiber—3 grams per one medium banana—and contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into the calming brain chemical serotonin to relax and improve your mood.
In addition to fiber and resistant starch, potatoes are a natural source of proteinase inhibitor, a natural chemical that boosts satiety hormones and curbs appetite. Potatoes are also incredibly versatile, affordable, satiating, and satisfying. FYI, potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled have higher rates of resistant starch. This is also true for foods already high in resistant starch, as well as foods like pasta and rice.
Beans and Legumes
Nearly half of the starch in beans comes from resistant starch. Beans and legumes, like lentils, are also an incredibly rich source of fiber and B vitamins, and a great replacement for meat as a source of protein. Beans and legumes can also help reduce blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy gut.
Oats are high in the soluble fiber beta-glucan and can help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promote healthy gut bacteria, and increase feelings of fullness. Oatmeal also contains many powerful antioxidants, including avenanthramides, that can help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation.
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Quinoa is a fiber dense, superstar plant-based source of protein: 1 cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein, plus half the daily recommended amount of fiber intake. It’s naturally gluten-free, and contains all 9 essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own. Oh, and it’s high in vitamins B-6 and C. If cooking quinoa feels intimidating for you, try using a boil-in-bag product (like Success Rice Tri-Color Quinoa) to cook perfectly soft and fluffy quinoa every time.
Brown rice is a whole grain and digests more slowly than white rice, so it has less of a spiking effect on blood sugar. According to Largeman-Roth, eating brown rice instead of white rice may also lead to a greater reduction in weight, body mass index, and body fat.
In addition to 1.9 grams of resistant starch per half cup, barley is rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, which reduces appetite and keeps you regular. According to Largeman-Roth, making barley a regular ingredient in your diet may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer.