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How to lose weight and still enjoy carbs

Michelle Dudash, RD, is nationally recognized as an expert in teaching people how health and food can happily co-exist. Through her 18 years of food business experience as a Le Cordon Bleu certified chef having cooked at a five star rest...

The special starches

Your New Year resolutions may find you jumping on the low-carb wagon. However, one can live on meat, green vegetables and eggs for only so long, but what if you discovered that you could eat your favorite starchy foods again and still stay on track? Emerging evidence shows how you can, and should, welcome those foods and how they may even help you lose weight.

What is a resistant starch?

Resistant starch is one of the many different types of fibers that is digested in the large intestine, versus the small intestine, where it's fermented. This difference leads to a number of its health benefits. Hope Warsaw, RD, author of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, and consultant to the manufacturer of Hi-Maize Resistant Starch says, "Resistant starches provide one more reason not to veer away from healthy carbohydrates."

These healthy carbohydrates include a variety of plant-based foods such as legumes, whole grains and vegetables. Not only are these foods packed with vital nutrients, since they contain fiber, they digest more slowly, keeping you fuller longer and satisfied.

How much you should eat

David Feder, a registered dietitian and author of The Skinny Carbs Diet, explains in his book, "At the very least, all of us should be getting ten grams of resistant starch a day. That's the amount associated with weight management and a measure of glucose (blood sugar) control." With the average American diet providing only 5 grams a day, David recommends opting for these starchy foods and cooking many of them low and slow.

Fifteen to 20 grams is an amount that has been recommended as a goal by experts to reap health benefits including digestive health and improved blood sugars. Hope says that, "more could be better" and research studies show you can eat well up to 45 grams per day and not suffer from the unpleasant intestinal affects, such as bloating, that other fibers can bring.

Where you can find resistant starches

Food and amount of resistant starches:

1/4 cup navy beans - 4.9

1 medium banana, slightly green - 4.7

3/4 cup kidney beans - 3.8

1/2 cup chickpeas - 3.1

3/4 cup cooked rice - 2.6

2 slices pumpernickel bread - 2.3

1/2 cup mashed potatoes - 1.8

1/2 cup of barley - 1.6

1 cup pasta - 1.4

1/2 cup black-eyed peas - 1

1/2 cup quinoa - 1

1-8" corn tortilla - 1

1 cup cornflakes - .9

1/2 cup green peas - .7

1/2 cup couscous - .3

*Nutrient values taken from the USDA Nutrient Database.

Getting started

Over a period of six weeks, the goal is to gradually increase your intake of these foods until you reach eating 20 grams of resistant starches per day, according to David. Since calorie intake is paramount to any weight loss plan, most women of average weight, height and activity level can consume 1,400 calories per day in the first week and 1,600 calories thereafter. Aim for 25-30 grams of total fiber a day.

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