sweet potato

Carbs have a bad rep.  People see foods that fit into this category as the boogey man that will make them fat.  The reality is we need this macronutrient to stay healthy.  Carbohydrates actually help our body to use protein for cell repair.  Also, insufficient carbohydrate intake can cause hair shedding.  On the flip side, avoid simple carbs as they are bad for your skin.

Go to any standard grocery store and most of the food is processed.  The golden rule, when food shopping is to stay out of those middle aisles and shop the outer perimeter, where most of the produce is found.  There you will find highly processed carbs like white flour, sugar, and salt, the simple carbs that wreak havoc in our bodies.

There are three main types of carbohydrates: starches, fiber and sugars. A starch is a complex carbohydrate and is found in foods such as oatmeal, wild rice, quinoa, couscous, sweet potato, pumpkin and beets, among others.  There are two types of fiber, insoluble, which helps move things along (if you know what I mean), and soluble fiber, which helps to control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol.  Some foods high in fiber include pears, avocado, apples, strawberries, bananas, carrots, beets, broccoli, lentils, chickpeas, to name a few.  And of course sugar a simple carbohydrate is the biggest baddest boogey man of them all.  However, not all sugar is bad.  There is natural sugar in fruit for instance.  Fruit also has fiber, which helps slow the breakdown of sugar. Plus, most fruit are a good source of vitamins and other things your body needs.

the best rule of thumb is to avoid simple carbohydrates and consume more complex carbs.  You can use the Dietary Reference Intakes Calculator  to see how many grams of carbs you should eat per day.