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Bread, potatoes, rice: these carbohydrates tend to get a bad rap. But are carbohydrates really that bad for you?

Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy and are needed to maintain proper cell function. Carbs come in two forms: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates break down easily and go directly into the bloodstream causing blood sugar to spike. Baked goods, sugary cereal, fruit juice and soda are examples of simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates are made up of fiber and starch, and it's the fiber that allows them to digest more slowly. The more fiber the better since fiber helps lower cholesterol levels and promote good digestive health. Beans, whole grains and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables are examples of complex carbohydrates. They're more filling, which helps with weight control and are ideal for those with diabetes to avoid blood sugar spikes.

Thus, white bread, potatoes and white rice are not necessarily bad carbohydrates, but they have more starch than fiber. Choose whole grain options, such as whole grain bread or brown rice to obtain additional nutrients and possibly more fiber. Individuals with diabetes should spread their carbohydrates evenly throughout the day. Check your local Extension office for diabetes education classes near you.

Here's a rice recipe that I hope you'll enjoy. Use brown rice, a whole grain carbohydrate. For more recipes, check out Diabetes Food Hub from the American Diabetes Association.

Black Bean and Cilantro Lime Rice (Printable PDF)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 shallot, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles

1 (14.5 oz.) can no-added-salt black beans, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons lime zest

3 Tablespoons lime juice

2 cups instant brown rice

⅓ cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté until no longer pink. Stir in shallot and garlic; heat for 2 minutes. Add broth, chiles, black beans, lime zest and juice. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5-7 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 300 calories, 5 grams fat, 135 milligrams sodium, 38 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 25 grams protein