Like many carb-watchers, I swore off white grains long ago (or at least attempted to—I still may fall under the occasional spell of a fresh baguette or brownie). But it turns out I may have been too quick to judge. Some white carbs are perfectly fine—healthy, even—despite their pale hue. Adding the “good” white grains to your diet, in moderation of course, will not make your stomach balloon a full dress size in mere hours. I promise. In fact, some of these tasty morsels are actually whole grains in disguise, and pack a mighty dose of energy, vitamins and minerals. Here are the white carbs that you can feel better about.
1. Sourdough bread – White-bread lovers rejoice! Although sourdough bread is made with white flour, it doesn’t spike your blood sugar like your average Wonder slice. Bakers have been crafting sourdough loaves for thousands of years, cultivating a starter recipe that includes both yeast and bacteria. These bacteria produce lactic acid, which ferments the dough and prevents some of the negative effects of refined carbohydrates. In fact, one Swedish study found that bread with lactic acid raised blood glucose levels less than a blend of whole-grain and white bread. Remember though, sourdough can never be as healthy as whole-grain bread because it’s still made with milled flour.
2. White whole wheat – Think of white whole wheat as the “other” white bread. While most white bread is made from red wheat that’s been stripped of the germ and bran, white whole wheat is made from a lighter-colored wheat and contains all parts of the grain. This means you can enjoy the milder flavor and lighter texture of white whole wheat without sacrificing nutrients like fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid.
3. White corn tortillas – Corn is a funny food— when it’s dried, it’s a grain, but when you serve it fresh it counts as a vegetable. Either way, you can feel good about eating corn tortillas, which are made with whole corn kernels. According to the Whole Grains Council, corn contains more than 10 times the vitamin A of other grains, plus plenty of fiber. When you combine corn with beans, as in a simple black-bean taco, you’ll get all of your essential amino acids to form a complete protein. Corn tortillas also contains niacin, but your body can’t metabolize it due to niacin-binding compounds in the corn. That’s why you should look for tortillas made with lime, which breaks down the binding effect.
4. Potatoes – OK, so potatoes aren’t everyday food—and that goes double if they’re fried or smothered in butter. These root vegetables are undeniably starchy, and according to Harvard Medical School, your body breaks them down very quickly so they raise blood glucose and insulin levels far more than whole grains. However, potatoes also happen to be chock-full of important nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C, so there’s room for them on your dinner plate every once in a while. Bake, grill or lightly saute your potatoes, and choose light toppings like chopped onions and chives instead of sour cream and other fat bombs.