Eat smarter not less: all about smart carbs

by | November 12, 2017 | Diet and Nutrition

What is a carb?

A carbohydrate is an organic molecule that contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen put together into delicious little packages for you to enjoy.

Carbohydrates can be broken down into two types: Simple and Complex carbs

Simple carbohydrates are sugars that digest more rapidly in your body.

Examples include the fructose (fruit sugar) in your apple, the lactose (milk sugar) in your cream and the sucrose (table sugar) in your morning coffee.

Complex carbs take longer to digest in your body.

Their structures are just that, more complex, than simple carbohydrates.

Examples include starch in your potato, cellulose in your broccoli and pectin in your jam.

Carbohydrates are a primary energy source in your body.

They provide fuel for your blood cells, your muscles, your brain and several other organs and organ systems in your body.

What is a smart carb?

To keep this really simple, think about this:

More fibre + whole foods = smart carbs

Less fibre + processing = less smart carbs

Smart carbs are basically minimally-processed, carbohydrate-rich, whole-foods.

Therefore, smart carbs:

Are higher in fibre so they digest slowly and help keep you fuller longer

A shuttle for vitamins, mineral and other phytonutrients

Help regulate blood sugar, hormones and digestion

Help make you feel satisfied with your meals and therefore less likely to make poor eating decisions.

When trying to figure out if your carbs are smart or not, just ask

“Are these carbs adding value to my body?”

If so, let ‘er rip!

Sample smart carbs

Here are some smart carbs to get your motor runnin’:

Fruit – fresh or frozen

Starchy tubers – butternut squash, yam, sweet potato or potato

Beans and legumes – lentils, chickpeas and black beans

Minimally processed grains like quinoa, brown or wild rice, steel cut oats, teff, amaranth and sprouted grains

The Carb Continuum

You might be thinking:

“Are you kidding me, you want me to throw out everything that is not on your stupid little list and start eating ancient grains for the rest of my life?”


We don’t want that.

At least, not for now.

We do not expect perfection- nowhere near it.

Chances are if you are eating frosted flakes and ramen noodles every day, then moving up a notch just slightly is going to provide you a substantial advantage.

So, we try not to think of good carbs or bad carbs.

We think good, better and best carbs based on the situation we are in.

You tell me…

What is a step-up from eating white pasta at a restaurant?

What is a step-up from whole-wheat bread?

What is a step-up from ramen noodles.

Those are the questions you can ask yourself when looking to include smarter carbohydrates in your meals.

Again, we don’t expect you to completely eliminate everything you have been eating right off the hop. Just find a way to make your carbs 1% smarter.

And of course, always consider the situation you are in and think “what is a slightly smarter carb choice than the one I would normally make?”

Take breakfast cereal for example:

Level 1 would be frosted flakes

Level 2 would be instant oats

Level 3 would be large flake oats

Level 4 would be steel cut oats

How can you make your carbs choices just a little smarter?

How much?

Again, let’s just keep it simple:

You should aim for 1-2 cupped handfuls of smart carbs per meal.

How Many Smart Carbs do you need?(Photo from Precision Nutrition’s Procoach)

But, here’s the deal – you may not always feel like eating carbs.

Maybe you just want a salad with some chicken or some beef and broccoli.

That’s absolutely fine.

You would just dial your carbs down for that meal (but it would be wise to dial your veggies up).

Conversely, you can dial up your carbs by having some chill with corn and black beans or some oatmeal with fruit at another meal.

The choice is yours.

There is no perfect meal.

And as long as you eat slow and eat until 80% full, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals.

Key Takeaways

Carbohydrates can be broken down into simple and complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates include things like potatoes and grains.

Simple carbohydrates include things like fruit and table sugar.

Smart carbs are minimally-processed, whole-foods that are full of fibre and add value to your body. They will help keep you fuller for longer, they are shuttles for vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and they help with blood sugar, hormones, digestion and energy levels.

Always put your carbs on a continuum. Ask yourself “what is the smarter carb option in this scenario?”

Don’t strive for perfection, aim for progress.

As always, eat slow and eat until 80% full.

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