Not all carbs are created equal. While eating too many simple carbs like white bread and white pasta can pack on the pounds, some carbs are good for you and can actually aid in weight loss.
See also: Gut health and weight loss: what you need to know
See also: Six ways to lose weight without exercise
1. Purple potatoes
You know to cut out white bread, white rice and pasta if you want to be healthy and lose weight – but there's no need to give up white potatoes! According to health experts, white potatoes are a good source of fibre, potassium and vitamin C. Of course, you need to watch your portion sizes (and avoid adding cream, butter or oil) if you're watching your weight, but there's no reason to eliminate them from your diet.
If you want to speed up your weight loss, switch to sweet potatoes, which are lower on the glycaemic index. And if you really want to upgrade your spuds, opt for purple potatoes. Lower in starch than their white cousins, purple potatoes are packed with antioxidants that can help to lower blood pressure and may help reduce the risk of heart disease according to one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Packed with fibre and a good source of protein, lentils help to stabilise blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer. One cup of cooked lentils contains 17.86g of low-fat protein and 40g of carbohydrate, making them a healthy option if you're watching your carb intake. Use in soups, casseroles or curries or add to a lunchtime salad or wrap for a healthy, filling lunch. You don't need to buy the dried variety and bother with soaking them overnight – tinned lentils are just as good.
Quinoa is a complete protein (which means it contains all nine essential amino acids) making it the king of grains and one of the healthiest sources of carbohydrate out there. Not only does it have twice the protein content of rice or barley, quinoa is a good source of calcium, magnesium and manganese, as well as several B vitamins and vitamin E. If you're trying to lose weight, quinoa is a good option as its high fibre content means it's digested slowly, helping to keep you fuller and stabilising blood sugar levels. Enjoy quinoa in a salad with feta cheese, chopped red onion and cucumber - or have it in place of rice or pasta with your usual meals.
4. Butternut squash
Who says salads have to be boring? Butternut squash is incredibly filling (add cubes to salads or use in soups) and tastes delicious, especially when roasted. One cup of the cooked vegetable contains 82 calories, 0g of fat, 22g of carbohydrates, and 1.8g of protein – and provides a 437% percent of your vitamin A needs for the day, as well as 52% of vitamin C and 10% or more of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and manganese. Butternut squash is also a good source of potassium – one cup of the vegetable contains more potassium than a banana. Not getting enough potassium can cause you to feel lethargic, making it harder for you to stay active enough to lose weight effectively.
5. Corn on the cob
You might think sweetcorn is full of sugar, but an ear of corn contains the same number of calories as an apple and has less than a quarter the sugar. There's another good reason to enjoy fresh corn on the cob – sweetcorn is rich in fibre, potassium and vitamin C, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which promotes healthy vision. Sweetcorn is a dieter's friend because it has high amounts of insoluble fibre – the husks of the corn kernels don't get broken down – which helps to fill you up and feeds the good bacteria in your gut.