Complex Carbohydrates – Choose Clean Carbs To Get Lean

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There is such a misconception and so much confusion on carbohydrates that people could be missing out on important nutrients that can aid in health, fitness and weight loss. So to make it really easy, just try to always go for complex carbohydrates. If you want to go one step further and healthier, stick to low glycemic carb foods.

So, what are these complex carbs, what is a glycemic index and what are low glycemic index foods? Below you will find the definition and a list of complex carbs:

  • Potatoes are a carbohydrate, but a better choice are sweet potatoes.
  • Legumes (beans lentils and split peas).
  • Whole wheat, brown pasta, brown rice, carrots, quinoa, barley, and whole grains.
  • Bran, maize (corn), buckwheat, cassava.
  • Some fruits and vegetables, but they tend to be low in carbs.
  • Oatmeal, muesli, shredded wheat, and other whole grain high fiber cereals.

So, What Is The Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index or GI describes the difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Low GI carbs, the choices that produce small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels is the secret to success in long-term health, weight loss, and reducing various diseases. So what are some low Glycemic index foods? Below find a list and where they rank on the list. The lower the number, the better the carb is for you.

Foods with a GI value of 55 or less is considered low. Below is a chart of low glycemic foods:

FruitsVeggiesGrainsBreadsLegumesCheese
applesartichokesbuckwheat100% sprouted whole wheatbaked beansAmerican
dried applesasparaguskashaEzekiel breadblack beansBlue
blueberriesbrussels sproutsbulgaroat bran breadgarbanzo beansBrie
orangesbean sproutsquinoawholemeal barley breadpeasCheddar
limesblack eyed peasrice branmultigrain breadnavy beansColby
lemonsbroccolipearled barley9 grain bread sproutedblack-eyed peasCottage cheese
berriescabbageryewheat pita breadbutter-beansCream cheese
honeydewcaulifloweramaranthkidney beansEdam
meloncelerywheat kernelssoybeansFeta
tomatoescollard greensoatschick peasFontina
cucumberoat branpinto beansGoat
eggplantescarolelentilsGouda
endivelima beansGruyere
water chestnutsMonterey
lima beansMozzarella
mustard greensMuenster
green beansParmesan
red bell pepperProvolone
yellow bell pepperRicotta
leeksRomano
mushroomsRoquefort
olivesSwiss
peas
pickles
radishes
spinach
split peas
sweet potatoes
turnips
greens
arugula
chick peas
garbanzo beans
green peppers
kale
kohlrabi
lettuce
okra
onions
scallions
swiss chard
snow peas
yellow squash
yams
zucchini
avocado
sauerkraut

Nuts
complex-carbohydrates-nutsNuts are low glycemic and a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Caution! Because they have a high fat content and so small and easy to pop in your mouth, you could eat more than you need to. A snack of 7 raw nuts at one sitting is a reasonable amount. You can add them to salads, yogurt and oatmeal. Doing so gives you a meal or snack higher in protein, good fat, and may keep you fuller longer.

Fats, Oils, Butter and Mayonnaise
Although most fats, oils, butter and mayo are low glycemic, it does not mean to load up or that they are preferred over food that are even moderate on the glycemic index. It is important to make choices when in comes to fats that are omega 3 fats (some include olive oil, seeds, fish, nuts). Omega 6 fats should be consumed in smaller portions. Between the two, always go for the omega 3. Some omega 6 fats include butter, meats, and other types of oils.

Below are the better choices when it comes to oils:

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Omega-3 Foods (the better of the two omega’s)
  • Striped bass
  • Mackerel
  • Wild trout
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Any nut/seed oil
  • Dairy and Plant Milks
  • Wild salmon
  • Oysters
  • Tuna
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Canola oil
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Herring
  • Sablefish
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil

This list is not complete by any means, but it is a good starting point in understanding carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have been given a bad rap. Complex carbohydrates rich in fiber, nutrients, and low on the glycemic index are not only good for you, but are mandatory if you are trying to stay healthy, lean out, and have enough energy to get through the day, and complete a workout.

Side Note
Portion size has been the topic of quite a few articles and studies lately. It seems we as Americans, are delusional about how much we really eat. Some experts have gone even as far as saying that the overweight person who has been claiming that they eat nothing and still gain weight are not being honest, or are ignorant about what they are eating and drinking. Those 100 calorie snacks add up when you have 10 a day. Plus your regular meals, or mindless snacking while watching TV or doing something else where your mind is focusing on what you are engaged in, not the calories you are inhaling. Be aware of what you put into your mouth, and how much you are eating. Keep a journal if you need to for a couple of days. This will give you an idea about your mental state when it comes to food, calories, and snacking. Ignorance is bliss in some scenarios. But not one where your body weight is involved.

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About Author

Diane Mohlman

I'm a ISSA certified fitness trainer, specialist in performance nutrition, fitness therapy and youth fitness. I continue to educate myself on the topics of health and fitness. This industry is ever changing and new discoveries are made constantly. I have such a love for this field, and also helping people better their lives! See my profile page for more information.

5 Comments

  1. I have a problem with what you are saying. I am 53 years old and have been put on many diets without success. My Doctor always accused me of cheating but recently I found out I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is something I believe I have had a long time and losing weight has always been a battle. I was obese in my late teens and then on. Not everyone that is overweight is lying about what they eat and saying so is very harsh on those who have an un-diagnosed disease as I have.

    • shapefit

      Yes, you make a very good point and it is extremely important for people to always consult with a physician to see if there are any underlying health issues before starting any diet and exercise program.

    • While I sympathize with your condition, the simple equation is that [calories in] – [calories burned] = [calories stored]. Depending on what you’re doing, you may be converting those calories into new muscle mass, or you may be storing them in fat cells. But you don’t spontaneously generate additional fat while eating at caloric deficit. Assuming you aren’t in a catabolic state (where the body is burning muscle for energy), a low-calorie diet and exercise will allow you to burn fat. If you aren’t operating at caloric deficit, you aren’t going to lose weight. Now, depending on your condition, you may require a special diet or a customized exercise regimen to optimize your fat loss. But the foundational principles don’t change.

    • shapefit

      Lemuel – If your goal is to lose maximum body fat then eating starchy carbs like boiled potatoes late at night is not your best option since it will wreak havoc on your insulin levels and promote fat storage. Stick to lean protein and veggies or a protein shake at night for the best results.

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