We're learning more about which carbs you should never cut from your diet

bread bakery

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Milled bread flour isn't as good for your body as unrefined whole grains.

  • Several new studies suggest that people who eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates live longer than people on both low-carb and high-carb diets.
  • That doesn't mean you should gorge on white bread and cake. Instead, researchers are discovering that people who eat more plant-based foods of all kinds, including carbs, have some of the best health outcomes.
  • Some of the healthiest carbs for your body and brain are whole grains, starchy vegetables, peas and squash - which are high in fiber.

Limiting carbs might be an effective short-term weight loss strategy, but science is discovering that it's perhaps not the best meal plan for a long life.

That's because not all carbs are created equal, and often people who forgo carbs replace them with more animal proteins. Too much of those can lead to kidney trouble and increase inflammation levels in the body.Advertisement

Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred fuel source, and although eating one type of carb - sugar - can expand your waistline, that's not true of other sources of carbohydrates like starches and fiber. Our bodies actually can't absorb dietary fiber at all, so those carbohydrates help us better digest food, keeping bellies satisfied while protecting the body from disease.

Rigorous scientific studies are increasingly showing us that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, beans, and peas and avoid processed foods are more likely to live longer, cancer-free lives. A diet rich in whole foods such as plants can never be low-carb, but it can be filled with good carbs.

"There's absolutely nothing more important for our health than what we eat each and every day," Sara Seidelmann, a cardiologist and nutrition researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Business Insider. Seidelmann's study of more than 447,000 people around the world revealed that people who eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates, and stick mainly to plant-based meals live longer than others who fuel up on animal proteins or white bread and white rice.

If you're wondering which carbohydrates are the best for your body, here are a few dietitian-approved choices:

Whole grainsUnlike processed grains, whole grains have outer shells of bran and germ that provide protein and fiber, which help keep you full.Advertisement

Eating whole grains also lowers your chances of suffering a stroke, helps regulate blood pressure, and reduces your risk of developing diabetes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. To incorporate more whole grains into your diet, look for breads and pastas that are "100% whole wheat" or "100% whole grain." Remember, wheat flour is only about 25% whole wheat.

Also remember that whole grains aren't limited to wheat, oats, and brown rice. Try some high-fiber barley, crunchy quinoa, Ethiopian teff, or wild rice.

Pulses, including peas, lentils, and beansAdvertisement

"Pulses are excellent sources of healthy, slow-digesting carbs packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein and phytochemicals," registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, author of "The Plant-Powered Diet," told Business Insider in an email.

The phytochemicals in plants that give them color and flavor are great cancer-fighters too, since they decrease inflammation in the body and help repair our DNA.

Green peas, for example, are filled with bone-protecting potassium and belly-satisfying protein. They are also sweet and rich in folate, which is critical for cells to grow and function properly. Aside from the green kind, there are also chickpeas, which are used to make hummus.Advertisement

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A, B6, and C. It's best not to overdo it on the sweet orange roots because they have a high glycemic index, which will temporarily spike blood sugar. But a bit of cooked sweet potato mixed into a salad or roasted as a side dish is a good dinner choice. Instead of baking or frying, boil potatoes with the skins on and boil for about 20 mins to retain the most nutrients, according to Harvard Health.


Squash, which can be added to soups, roasted, or blended into casseroles, is a rich wonder-food. Many types contain some natural sugar, but they're also high in eye-protecting lutein. Squash also packs enough protein and fiber to keep you full for a while, while providing magnesium and potassium for bone health.

Limited amounts of fruitFruits like bananas and apples are often banned on low-carb diets since they're carb-heavy and contain natural sugars. But eating a bit of fruit isn't bad for you, especially when you consume it whole instead of blending it into a smoothie or juice. Eating an apple with its fibrous skin on instead of peeling it will deliver about double the fiber, 25% more potassium, and 40% more vitamin A, according to the Washington Post. Advertisement