We hear about low carb diets all the time. Whether you’re looking to manage your blood sugar levels or lose fat, the experts all agree that lower carb is the way to go. But what does that mean? You would be surprised how many people don’t realize vegetables are carbs.

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. They are one of three macronutrients that provide nutritional fuel for our bodies. Carbs are needed for both our brains and our bodies to function optimally. They provide the fiber that assists in maintaining healthy gut function. (Read more about fiber, here.)

Here are the basics:

Simple carbs are converted to glucose, or sugar, rather quickly in the body. These carbs are usually everyone’s favorites. Things like bread, pasta, processed foods, and sugar-laden beverages fall into this category. If you make no other dietary changes, except eliminating simple carbs, I would almost guarantee that you would be more energized and lose weight.

That being said, not all simple carbs are bad. Things like fruit and honey are simple carbs and add a wealth of nutritional value to our daily diets. A good rule of thumb is to eat unrefined, unprocessed carbs. In other words, eat real food! (Note: your individual nutrition goals would determine how much of these simple carbs you could tolerate in your diet.)

Complex carbs are actually our friends. These guys take longer to digest AND therefore stabilize our blood sugar levels because they get absorbed more slowly.  These types of carbs are broken into two groups: non-starchy and starchy.

Non-starchy carbs are known as ‘free’ carbs in most diet plans. That is because there is only 5g carb per one-cup serving. They are low in calories, so you can eat 8 cups a day for only 200 calories! Non-starchy carbs include: leafy greens and lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, onions, and mushrooms, to name a few.

Starchy carbs are denser, packing more calories. They have 15g of carbs per cup, so you need to be mindful of serving sizes. (Especially if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic.) Starchy carbs include potatoes, yams, pumpkin, squash, parsnips, turnips, plantains, and whole grains.

Don’t be afraid of carbs!! Try these in your diet:

Spaghetti squash: I typically use this in place of pasta. I know, I know, it doesn’t taste the same but that is a sacrifice I will make to be healthier. 😉 I bake the squash in the oven and eat half with a double serving of meat sauce, loaded with veggies. If you can handle dairy, throw some Parmesan on top, and voila, you have a scrumptious Italian meal.

Plantains: The key is to make sure your plantains are ripe. Let them get a little yellow before trying to peel and cook with them. I sauté them lightly and add mushrooms or black beans. Season with chili powder, cumin, garlic, and cilantro for a yummy vegan Mexican bowl. Or sauté in coconut oil and sprinkle with cinnamon for a sweet treat.

Potatoes: For as long as I can remember, my breakfast has always been jam-packed with protein. My long time standa