Both fruits and vegetables offer an abundance of healthy carbohydrates. In this section, we'll take an in-depth look at these culinary delights.
A glance at the glycemic index lists fruit in all three GI categories: low, moderate, and high. However, there's no question that all fruits are unbeatable sources of many vitamins, including C and A, as well as fiber and phytonutrients. While fruits have a high percentage of simple sugars, that's no reason to leave these readily available sources of healthy carbohydrate out of the diet.
Fruits eaten whole contribute all of the good things listed above, yet there's another compelling reason to include whole versions. Many nutrition researchers agree that the "synergy" of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans is what appears to confer protection against cancer and other diseases. Synergy is the interactive way vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other components work to produce a much stronger effect than they do individually. Including whole fruits in your diet on a regular basis ensures you'll get the optimal health benefits in a delicious package.
It's easy to toss an apple or banana into a lunch box or briefcase, but this can get boring. Increase your intake of whole fruits by featuring them in a wide variety of entrees and desserts. You can even serve them disguised as fun foods. Rest assured that the antioxidant power of blueberries is not what people think about as they dip into a dish of warm blueberry cobbler. It's not that healthy foods aren't fun on their own, but if you're feeding a reluctant crowd or trying to pad the diets of your loved ones with a few more healthy foods, a little enticement can work in your favor.
Vary the fruit you use depending on the season. For instance, eat pumpkin, apples, and cranberries in the fall and nectarines and blueberries in summer. Start with a fruit base, then use tried-and-true tricks to make the recipe as nutritious as possible: Substitute low- or nonfat dairy products for full-fat varieties, use whole-wheat flour in place of white flour, and substitute applesauce for some of the fat. You can even cut the sugar by 1/3 without negatively impacting the outcome.
Use the following list of tasty ideas as a starting place to add more fruit to your family's diet. You're only limited by your imagination!
- Layered fruit and yogurt
- Baked apples
- Frozen fruit ice pops
- Fruit soups
- Sauteed bananas
- Fruit puddings (pumpkin, banana)
- Add dried fruits to drop cookies
- Bar cookies filled with figs or other fruit
- Fruit tarts
- Fruit-filled crepes
- Fruit smoothies
- Blueberry/apple/raspberry pancakes
- French toast topped with fruit compote
- Fruit-based muffins
- Fruit breads (banana, pumpkin, cranberry, etc.)
- Fruit dipped in chocolate (strawberries, apricots, oranges, cherries, etc.)
The idea of synergy applies to vegetables as well as fruits, but when serving these nutrition powerhouses you may need to disguise them using the "fun food" approach. People are very particular about their vegetables, from which varieties they prefer to preparation methods to size and shape.
Eating more vegetables is so important that you should pull out all the stops to make them delicious. If the only way you'll eat green veggies is to saute them in a bit of butter, do it! If you love cauliflower and broccoli nestled under cheese sauce, just try to find the healthiest version of cheese sauce you can and be judicious in the amount you use.
The benefits of eating more vegetables far outweighs any bit of topping you might add. For some, nothing beats the flavor of unadorned vegetables, where their true flavors stand on their own. Particularly during the summer when fresh vegetables are at their peak, try to experiment with steaming, microwaving, and munching veggies raw.
A discussion of carbohydrate and vegetables would be incomplete without touching on the starchy varieties. These complex carbohydrates are often avoided because "they turn to sugar" after you eat them. While that's true, as all carbohydrates break down into glucose (a form of sugar) following digestion, that doesn't make them unhealthy. Where folks get into trouble is by eating huge servings of less healthy versions of starchy vegetables, such as super-size orders of french fries. Healthy people shouldn't avoid starchy vegetables. They should be included in the diet as a solid source of energy and because of their many beneficial nutrients. If you're managing diabetes, be sure to count the carbohydrate in these foods in your daily total to help keep blood sugar in line.
As far as the glycemic index goes, keep in mind that starchy vegetables are rarely eaten on their own. It's not too often that you sit down to a huge bowl of plain mashed potatoes. If you've monitored your own reaction to these high-GI foods and find your blood sugar surging, then plummeting, eat smaller portions and always accompany them with a source of protein. Complement them with double helpings of nonstarchy vegetables. Include them in other dishes as well, such as muffins, breads, or burritos, where you'll still score the nutrition benefits.
Here's a list of starchy vegetables:
- Green peas
- Sweet potato
- Winter squash
Now you know all about foods that have healthy carbohydrates, but what are some great ways to prepare them? That's covered in the next section, where we'll tell you how to adapt your favorite recipes for low-carb cooking.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.