Carbs aren't the enemy. But consider refined carbs your frenemy. They seem harmless, until they're not. Refined carbs (like white bread, white sugar, and candy) have been stripped of their macronutrient content and reduced to a simple sugar that your body quickly digests. The result? You blood sugar spikes, your body pumps out tons of insulin to get the sugar into your cells, your blood sugar plummets, you get très sleepy, and any sugar the insulin didn't deal with gets converted into fat -- typically around your belly. And that abdominal fat can do more than make your skinny jeans look like a poor fashion choice. It can lead to polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease, says David Grotto, RD, author of The Best Things You Can Eat. On the flip side, well-controlled blood sugar levels keep you energized, slim, and healthy. And complex carbohydrates like whole grains can get the job done. They are your body's main source of fiber, keep you energized, and can actually keep you perky during the gray days of winter. The mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin comes from an amino acid called tryptophan, which is only able to enter the brain after digesting a healthy serving of carbs. "Low carb equals high crab," Grotto says. So for your waist's (and your mood's) sake, don't swear off all carbs!
The Plan: Since loving whole grains is easier said than done, start off by mixing some white rice or pasta in with your whole-grain varieties. As your taste buds adjust to the taste, you'll be able to wean yourself off of the unhealthy stuff for good. But don't go overboard even with healthy grains: We are eating about 50 percent more grains than we should, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Grains -- even whole ones -- should only take up about a fourth of the real estate on your plate. The rest of your carbs should come from fruits and veggies and take up half of your plate, according to Grotto.
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