A discussion on carbs can quickly become a heated argument rooted in one of the many schools of thought about the nutritional value of the macronutrient. While not all carbs are the same—some are healthier than others—nutritionists are in agreement about one carb that deserves a role in a healthy and balanced diet: the whole grain. As Business Insider reports, whole grains are an important part of any balanced diet thanks to the nutrients they contain and their ability to keep you full.
Carbs often get a bad rap for being a contributing factor to weight gain, and are often seen as public enemy number one when crafting a healthy diet. However, it is important to make a distinction between whole grains and refined carbs. Foods like white rice and white bread are known as “stripped carbs,” meaning that the nutritious components of the carbs (the fibrous outer shell and the vitamin and mineral rich core) go through a refining process to produce the soft white bread and smooth white rice you are familiar with. The processed result is quickly digested in the body and then turned into sugar, causing the weight gain often associated with carbohydrates.
Whole grains that are not put through a refining process are the carbs to include in a healthy diet, according to nutritionist and dietician Cara Anselmo. The key to healthy eating is a balanced diet, which registered dietitian Nichola Whitehead categorizes as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats. This excludes refined carbohydrates, red meat, and highly processed food that often comes with excessive amounts of added sugar.
Your body will slowly digest a balanced meal comprised of whole grains, fiber, and vegetables to keep you full and focused, which is what keeps you healthy in the long term. So when you’re craving pasta or a sandwich don’t be afraid of the carbs these foods contain, just be sure to nourish your body with the whole grains it needs and balance your meals with other nutritious foods like vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats (think olive oil or avocado).