Before I reveal those foods, first a little lesson on carb digestion that you may not know…
Carbohydrates move from your stomach to your small intestine where they are further broken down and the nutrients are absorbed. Starches from the carbs are broken down into glucose that is transported to your blood.
This causes a rise in blood sugar, which results in your pancreas producing insulin to take that glucose to the cells in your body.
It is either used as fuel or stored as fat. This may be a stretch, but I am going to assume you prefer your glucose to be used as fuel. (If not, we may need to talk…)
When you digest complex carbs that are low on something called the Glycemic Index (a rating system for the speed carbs are digested), the starches have to work their way through the fiber in the food before they can be absorbed into your bloodstream and converted into sugar.
Picture it as though you’re trying to walk through a densely wooded, overgrown forest. The more vines, weeds and branches you encounter, the slower you have to go to get to the other side.
And while that might get on your nerves quick if you’re out hiking, it is a good thing where carbohydrates are concerned because it means the energy you get from your food is slowly released over a longer period of time.
If your blood sugar stays stable, there’s not a massive insulin release and glucose doesn’t get stored as flab as easily. Instead, it’s more likely to be stored as energy in your muscle tissue. Score!
To that end, here are some of the best “slow-digesting” complex carbs to eat…
Top 5 Carbohydrate Foods:
Asparagus is a special treat that can be roasted, steamed, sautéed, added to salads and eaten as a side dish or even a main dish. Asparagus has a Glycemic Index of only 15. Anything under 50 is considered low, and low is good because it means it takes longer for your body to digest thanks to fiber.
Fiber is what makes you feel full longer, which is certainly helpful to keep the munchies at bay. As we spoke about, fiber also slows the absorption of starches into your blood. Adequate fiber in your diet lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and diverticulitis.1,2,3,4 And because of its munchie-curing ability, it also helps you lose weight.
Cabbage is so versatile, you can enjoy it cooked or raw. It is low in calories as well as being low GI with a rating of 15. It is also high in fiber and vitamin C, and as a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, cabbage has cancer and environmental estrogen-fighting properties, too.
Another high-fiber, cruciferous vegetable that is a 15 on the GI… Are you seeing a trend here? Broccoli has lots of vitamins like beta-carotene and vitamin K. There is also evidence that it can fight cancer because it is rich in phytochemicals called isothiocyanates.5
Better still, one study also found that eating 1-2 cups of cruciferous veggies a day lowers levels of oxidative stress (linked to cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and rheumatoid arthritis) by 22%.6
Spinach and most other leafy greens also have a low GI score of 15. Spinach is high in iron, calcium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. If you don’t like it cooked, add it raw to your salads! Spinach is truly a superfood, full of at least 13 different phytochemicals that benefit your heart, brain, eyes and bones, and fight of damaging inflammation.
Beans, lentils and peas are known as legumes.7 Legumes, nuts and seeds are high in protein and fiber while still having a low score on the Glycemic Index. Take chickpeas for example. They rank lower than all the vegetables above, with a 10 on the GI – and studies have found they help lower bad cholesterol, too. Peanuts are only a 7! All are versatile and can be prepared in endless ways, giving you steady energy, keeping you full and satisfying your appetite throughout the day without sabotaging your health.
So as you can see, you really have lots of options. By swapping your sugary snacks for a few of these healthy carbs, you’ll give your body the energy and vitamins it needs to function optimally, without driving your insulin levels up out of control. So eat up and watch the pounds melt away… without hunger.
To a healthier you!