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Six Smart Carbs

By Laurel-Lea Shannon

6 smart carbs for cyclistsNot all carbs are created equal. There are good carbs and bad carbs. Good carbs have a low-glycemic index, and keep your blood sugar levels balanced, giving you more energy and helping you to stay fuller longer. Bad carbs, such as the old starchy standbys—pasta, potatoes and bagels–quickly convert to sugar and are best saved for the occasional treat or for carb-loading before races or long rides.

Switching from white to brown is a good start—brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta—but why not branch out and try a few different carbohydrates? Not only do they perk up your taste buds, eating these carbs can also reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, plus lower your cholesterol levels.

Winter squash comes in colourful varieties and is easy to store. As well as being a tasty addition to many meals, they pack a nutritional punch, including: vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and beta-carotene. Squash can be cut in half, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and baked in the oven. It can also be added to stews or used in hearty, wholesome soups like curried butternut squash soup.

Pronounced “keen wah,” this gluten-free grain contains eight essential amino-acids and more protein than any other grain. It’s versatile, easy to prepare and can replace most dishes that call for rice. Try this easy side dish: in a Dutch oven, toss 8 cups of chopped vegetables (e.g., peppers, cauliflower, carrots) with olive oil, oregano, and salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until tender, about 40 minutes. Mix 2 cups of cooked quinoa with the vegetables. Serve warm.

Buckwheat (known as Kasha)
You would think something called buckwheat would contain wheat. Not so. Buckwheat, also called kasha, isn’t a grain; it’s a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel. But it has a grain-like taste and texture, making it a good grain replacement for people with wheat or gluten sensitivities. Kasha is pre-roasted and makes a yummy nutritious breakfast cereal. Rinse the kasha and simmer it in water (1 C kasha to 2 C water) for 12 to 15 minutes. Make sure you boil the water first before adding the kasha. Otherwise, you’ll end up with kasha mush. Serve with fruit and yogurt.

Soba Noodles
Buckwheat soba noodles are also gluten-free. High in dietary fibre, two cups of buckwheat soba noodles contain 220 calories, 48 grams of carbohydrates, and 12 grams of protein. But the good news doesn’t end there. Soba noodles cook quickly and their nutty flavour makes them a good addition to many meals. Try them with a stir fry or as a quick side dish sprinkled with olive oil and soya sauce.

Sweet Potato
High in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, sweet potatoes are a good replacement for white potatoes or rice. They can be boiled with a clove of garlic and mashed, or diced, sprinkled with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 350º until crisp and tender. For an occasional treat, make sweet potato fries (baked in the oven).

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that seems a little blah. But with a little imagination you can turn this good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid and manganese into a yummy side dish. Roasting brings out even more of its flavour. It can also be cooked with chicken broth and mashed, as a low-cal, nutritious replacement for potatoes.

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