Think potatoes, pasta, and bread are fattening starchy carbs you need to avoid if you want fab abs? Think again. Despite what the Keto diet and other extremely low-carb weight loss programs might lead you to believe, you can enjoy carbs without derailing your diet.
A recent study from Stanford University shows that you can lose weight on any type of diet (low or high-carb). Neither strategy is superior: cutting either carbs or fats shaves off excess weight in about the same proportion. What’s more, the researchers found that neither insulin levels nor a specific genotype pattern could predict an individual’s success on either diet. What does determine success? Sticking with it.
Since staying on track is the key, if you’re a carb-lover, choosing a diet that includes your favorite carbs is a better strategy than banishing them altogether, feeling deprived, and then giving up.
Here’s how to keep your favorite carbs as part of your healthy eating plan:
A medium potato (5.3 oz) has just 110 calories, 2 grams fiber so it won’t make a dent in your daily calorie budget. Plus, they’re an excellent source of both vitamin C and potassium and are rich in B-vitamins. Potatoes are often considered a diet no-no because of how we eat them—as high-calorie french fries, potato chips and mashed with butter and gravy. If you enjoy potatoes baked, broiled or roasted and without the high-cal toppers, even the most conscious calorie-counters can fit potatoes into their diet.
If pasta is fattening, don’t tell the Italians who eat three times as much pasta per person than we do but are a lot less likely to be overweight or obese. Italians eat some 57 pounds per person per year compared to 19 pounds per person in the U.S., according to data from the International Pasta Organization, but only about 10% of Italian women are obese versus 36% in the U.S. Pasta is wrongly targeted as a diet wrecker due to the company it keeps—buttery, meaty, and cheesy sauces and the ginormous portions we eat.
Keep your pasta “skinny” by aiming for a 50/50 pasta-to-produce ratio. Great produce picks include tomatoes, roasted veggies, and dark leafy greens.
Also, try whole-wheat varieties that are made with a combination of durum wheat and other grains so fiber and protein are pumped up. Watch cooking times closely, as overcooking whole wheat can make noodles gummy. Of course, portion size always matters: stick to no more than two cups of cooked pasta to keep overall calories in check.
Many people feel that bread is their ultimate diet “don’t” – but not all breads are created equal when it comes to weight gain. A preliminary study presented at the European Congress on Obesity found that people who ate four or more ounces of white bread daily were more likely to become overweight or obese, but those who consumed whole-grain breads were not at increased risk for weight gain. According to surveys, less than 5% of Americans eat the recommended amount of whole grains, and most eat refined grains like white bread.
While bread is considered taboo for dieters, it’s also one of the carbs we crave most—especially when it’s fresh from the oven. So don’t try to banish bread from your diet, just choose the healthier whole-grain options. Also, enjoy bread with other foods—especially those with protein and fiber–to slow down the digestion of the carbs in bread. Look for whole-grain breads that have at least 2 grams and 3-4 grams protein per serving or “light” store-bought breads that are sliced thinner. (Generally they have about 50-60 calories per serving.)
Acknowledgements By Katherine Brooking, MS, RD
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