by Nicci Micco
Our bodies and our brains need carbohydrates to work effectively. But not all carbohydrates are equal. Some, like white breads and starchy sweets, offer little to no nutrition; others, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are packed with goodness. Here are 6 healthy carbs you should consider incorporating into your diet:
1. Whole-wheat pasta. Because sometimes you just need pasta, and whole-wheat varieties offer two to three times more fiber than refined white brands, but they’re just as versatile and delicious. (Similarly, whole-wheat bread and brown rice are healthier choices than their “white” counterparts.)
To cook: Follow the package directions.
2. Quinoa: A delicately flavored whole grain, quinoa provides some fiber (about 2 grams per half cup) and a good amount of protein (4 grams). Rinsing quinoa removes any residue of saponin, its bitter natural protective coating.
To cook: Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
3. Barley is available “pearled” (the bran has been removed) or “quick-cooking” (parboiled). While both contain soluble fiber that may help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, pearl barley has a little more. (Note: Barley is not technically classified as a whole grain but it’s often considered one nutritionally because of its healthy nutrient profile.)
To cook: Pearled barley – Bring 1 cup barley and 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Quick-cooking barley – Bring 1 3/4 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup barley. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Bulgur is cracked wheat that’s been parboiled so it simply needs to soak in hot water for most uses – a perfect low-maintenance grain. It’s also a good source of feel-full fiber: just 1/2 cup delivers about 5 grams.
To cook: Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water or broth over 1 cup bulgur. Let stand, covered, until light and fluffy, about 30 minutes. If all the water is not absorbed, let the bulgur stand longer or press it in a strainer to remove excess liquid.
5. Wheat berries are whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat. They’re terrific sources of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and fiber.
To cook: Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones, and rinse with water. Bring 4 cups water or broth and 1 cup wheat berries to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still a little chewy, about 1 hour. Drain.
6. Popcorn. Reach for popcorn when you’re craving pretzels or potato chips; it may satisfy a snack craving and it’s a whole grain. Three cups of popped popcorn (what you get by popping 1 heaping tablespoon of kernels) equals one of your three recommended daily servings of whole grains and contains 3 grams of fiber.
To cook: Toss a heaping tablespoon into an air popper.