Bring up the subject of carbs around a table full of healthy eaters and risk the bread basket going flying; it’s a pretty controversial topic in the world of wellness. But regardless of whether you’re a ketogenic dieter or consider a life without potatoes the seventh circle of hell, virtually everyone can agree on two universal healthy eating truths. One: not all carbs are created equal. And two: gut health is key for overall health.
If you’re eating for gut health—which really, who isn’t these days?—registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin, RD says some carb choices can work in your favor. “All carbohydrates break down into glucose—aka sugar—which is why they often get a bad reputation, but there are lots of carbohydrates that are healthier for you that can help you reach your health goals and have you feeling you best,” she says. Here, Zeitlin shares her top five healthy carbohydrate foods when eating with gut health in mind. Work them into your diet regularly and you’ll be doing your whole body good.
The top 5 healthy carbohydrate foods for gut health, according to a dietitian:
“This morning staple makes the list because it is a super gut-friendly food,” Zeitlin says. “It adds soluble fiber to your day which helps to lower cholesterol, inflammation, and chronic illnesses.” She adds that oatmeal is also high in prebiotic fiber (the stuff that your gut bacteria eats), which can help avoid bloating, constipation, and gas. Pro tip: Add ginger, which is an all-star gut healthy spice with the dual benefit of making your bowl more flavorful.
Yes, the humble spud is loaded with health benefits, including for your gut. “Potatoes offer close to four grams of protein, five grams of fiber, and four grams of potassium, which is almost 25 percent of your daily needs,” Zeitlin says. She explains that the potassium in potatoes helps fight salt-induced bloat. In order to reap potatoes’ benefits, Zeitlin recommends having them baked, roasted, grilled, or boiled—not fried. She also says that white, sweet, purple, or blue potatoes *all* have these benefits, so go for the variety you like the taste of the best.
“Pulses are my personal favorite,” Zeitlin says, referring to the edible seeds of plants in the legume family, which include beans, lentils, and ever-trendy chickpeas. “They’re loaded with plant-protein and B vitamins, which help boost energy and improve cognitive function,” she says. And of course, they’re full of every dietitians’ favorite gut healthy nutrient: fiber.
Bananas are popping up in a whole slew of food products lately and Zietlin is here for it. One reason she loves the fruit is because of its potassium content, which—just like in potatoes—helps flush out bloat and excess salt. “They’re also full of magnesium, which helps to reduce anxiety and stress,” she says. Another benefit of bananas is their prebiotic content, which Zietlin says helps feed the good bacteria in the gut. “The helps keep the GI tract healthy and constipation free,” she says.
“Yogurt is a carb because of its naturally occurring lactose, aka sugar,” Zietlin says. She loves plain Greek yogurt because of its versatility: it can be used in everything from parfaits and smoothies to dips and condiments. “Yogurt is high in protein to keep your muscles healthy, calcium to keep your bones strong, and probiotics to improve your immunity and GI-health,” she says. “Overall, a win-win-win for the carb fam.”
While the bread basket still may spark some healthy debate (pun intended), this hit list shows that carbs are good for you. It all depends on which ones you reach for.
Watch the video below for more tips on eating for gut health:
If you’re looking for more gut-healthy food ideas, try this meal a G.I. doc recommends to all his patients. Plus, the healthier twist to give your smoothie.
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