If you came directly to this post, I recommend you go back and read posts one and two on this topic. It really does require an introduction. In the last post, we explored two important components to a micronutrient-rich diet:
1. Pack in the produce, and
2. Include protein in every meal.
This post includes another important component. Here goes.
3. Choose your carbs carefully
Carbs have a mixed reputation, which is confusing for a lot of people. Some diets shun carbs while others make them the foundation of the diet. So what’s a mindful eater to do? I suggest putting the focus on quality. Micronutrient quality, that is. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Carbohydrates, one of the three major macronutrients, are a main source of energy for the body. Some people tolerate more carbs in the diet than others – this depends on many factors such as activity level, medical history, and even genetics (and would be a great topic for another blog post). Carbohydrate-rich foods include grains (like rice, wheat, barley, and oats), fruit, starchy vegetables like squash and potatoes, and sugars such as honey, maple syrup, and granulated sugar. Fiber is a carbohydrate – technically a non-digestible one. There are lots of different types of fiber, which offer a multitude of benefits, but we won’t discuss them here.
A lot of Americans get most of their carbohydrates (and the majority of their Calories) from refined, bleached flour and sugar. Eating like this means missing out on so many micronutrients! While refined flour is enriched to return some of what is lost in the refining process, the micronutrient content just doesn’t come close to what you get from, say, sprouted wheat berries. Whole grains (those that are minimally processed) are a better source of important nutrients such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. I don't mean to say that you have to avoid bread, pasta, and white rice. I enjoy those foods (especially rice) intermittently. But since we're discussing how to up your micronutrient game, it's important to point out that there are some four star carb sources that pack a micronutrient-rich punch and leave the others in the dust. Eating these carb sources more often means more micronutrients for you. Here are some examples.
As you may have noticed from my Facebook posts, I cook these a lot. I bake them in the oven or cook quickly in the microwave (rinse, poke a few holes in the outside, microwave on high 5 minutes, flip, microwave 5 more minutes, allow to cool). Then I keep them in the fridge to use as a side dish, in a salad, or added to a soup. I found a new variety this week at my local farmer’s market – I can’t wait to try them! The classic baked potato is also a good source of micronutrients and deserves a mention. Here is a new version of this classic that takes the micronutrients up to 11.
Certain people, especially those with some digestive issues or SIBO, don’t tolerate beans and legumes well. For the rest of us, they’re a great source of micronutrient-rich carbs (and fiber!). Add some garbanzo beans to a salad, or better yet make these delicious roasted ones. Lentils make for an easy and budget-friendly curry dish such as this one from Epicurious. And for bonus points, here’s a simple recipe good for cold weather days that is packed with all sorts of micronutrient-rich carbs. Serve with a purchased rotisserie chicken to make a great meal.
I’ve made all different kinds of buckwheat pancakes, but these ones from the New York Times look worth trying next. They contain buckwheat flour, whole wheat flour, whole cooked buckwheat, and blueberries. Holy micronutrients! Another great way to enjoy buckwheat is by making a cold salad with cooked whole grain buckwheat noodles. Andrew loves this recipe… sort of. I’m not good at following recipes.
The classic example here is to prepare spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti topped with your favorite meat sauce or pesto and cheese. That would be great! You could also try a simple roasted acorn squash (use real butter instead of the coconut oil) or make up a batch of curried butternut squash soup (recipe by a dietitian, no less!)
Rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, oh my! Potatoes and carrots are great, but to up your micronutrient game you’ll want more variety in your root vegetable playlist. My favorite way to enjoy these is to mash boiled parsnips, rutabagas, and potatoes together and use as a side dish or topping for shepherd’s pie. Alton Brown is one of my food science heroes (yep, I have food science heroes). Consider making his shepherd’s pie and replacing ½ of the potatoes with other root veggies. Mixing in white potatoes helps make for a more familiar flavor and texture. For those wanting extra credit, check this guide to root vegetables by Oh My Veggies and do some experimenting.
I could not cover every micronutrient-rich source of carbohydrates in one blog post. There are too many choices! Hopefully these examples get you thinking about some great ways to add some variety to your carbohydrate choices.
In the next post, we'll talk about micronutrient-rich sources of fat. Yes, fat! Until then, happy eating!
© Lindsey Hays, Black Hills Nutrition LLC, and Blackhillsnutrition.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lindsey Hays and Blackhillsnutrition.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Lindsey Hays, RDN, LN
Lindsey Hays is licensed as a Nutritionist/Dietitian in the state of South Dakota. While she holds a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN or RD) credential which is nationally recognized by the Commission on Dietitian Registration, she is not licensed to practice as a nutritionist or dietitian in states other than South Dakota. She is a Certified Dietitian in the State of Washington. The information on blackhillsnutrition.com is not intended as medical advice. The content of this site is not intended to provide or replace medical advice, nor should it be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before changing your diet or medications. For full disclaimer statement click here.