They have been touted as evil by nutritionists and dieticians around the world. This is mainly because carbohydrates have the ability to shoot up sugar levels, cause weight gain and lead to diabetes, hypertension, mood swings and other lifestyle disorders.
However, carbs are not the food super villain they are made out to be.
Consumed in moderation, the good carbs make you feel full for longer. They are loaded with fibre and get absorbed into the body slowly, thereby providing energy. We tell you how to win this battle of good versus bad carbs, with simple swaps.
Read: Five foods to give up, five foods to eat
Ditch: Refined flour
Try: Whole wheat flour
When it comes to cooking everyday meals, it is hard to go too far without flour. But choose wisely and go for whole wheat flour instead of the refined variety or maida. Refined flour is simply wheat flour with the wheat germ, vitamins and fibre skimmed off.
"This helps obtain a velvety white powder, which accentuates the texture of a dish but brings down its health quotient to a large extent," says nutrition expert Dr Richa Anand from Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai. By swapping this flour with the whole wheat variant in wraps, puris, tortillas, pastas and breads, you can cut down the possibility of dietary problems such as high blood sugar levels, weight gain and empty calorie intake.
Try: Pine nuts
Peanuts are the perfect bar grub since they are so addictive — try stopping after you’ve popped the first couple. And since the majority of peanuts sold as snack are salted, they do more damage than good. Apart from meddling with your blood pressure levels, excessive binging can cause weight gain, increased intake of saturated fats and a rise in cholesterol.
Krishnan says, "Snack on pine nuts instead. The slender dry fruit is rich in vitamin A and C, and iron. These nuts are filling and give you an energy boost." Apart from snacking, you can also throw pine nuts in salads or blend them with natural oils to make nut butter.
Read: Exotic new veggies: adding a gourmet tinge to any meal
Try: Sweet potato
Potatoes are high in starch and do little for your body, especially when eaten without the peels. They cause a rise in sugar levels, leaving you hungry within a few hours, and are loaded with calories.
"Instead, try sweet potatoes. This root is rich in vitamins C and D, contains iron and magnesium and keeps you satiated for long," says clinical nutritionist Nupur Krishnan from the Biologics Nutrition Clinic, Tardeo. To substitute, simply swap the ingredients in mash, au gratin, shepherd’s pie, patties and even French fries.
Try: Green leaves
Most tortillas are made either with refined flour or cornmeal. The fact that refined flour is unhealthy is well-known, but with cornmeal, the problem is its high glycemic index.
"Replace flour-based tortilla wraps with leaves such as lettuce, kale or spinach for a healthier bite," says Anand. According to her, greens have carbs too, but the fibre content is higher. You can work this replacement in recipes to make meat wraps, tacos, vegetable rolls or simply a tartine.
Ditch: White bread
Try: Oat bread
Even the best French baguettes are made using polished flour that is perfect to knead but low in nutrition. Weight management expert Dr Amrapali Patil from Trim n Tone, Powai says, "Instead, go for the several whole grain breads available in the market. Take, for instance, breads made using oatmeal, flaxseed, multi-grain flour, spelt wheat and rye bread."
These are nutritionally superior to white breads and deliver a beautiful nutty fragrance and flavour to your food. Patil adds that whole grain breads reduce blood cholesterol and facilitate good gut health.