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Keep It Complex

By Aarti Patel Email By Aarti Patel
May 2017
Keep It Complex


Simple carbohydrates are often high in calories and can contribute to weight gain, whereas having a diet that includes more complex carbohydrates aids in weight loss.

Simple carbs are rapidly digested and provide the body with quick energy. These simple carbs, found in processed foods such as cakes, cookies, soft drinks, desserts, and candy, have little to no nutritional value. Complex carbs, which include whole grain breads, beans, cereals, and brown rice, are slow digesting, keeping blood glucose levels steady, and therefore are the better choice. These foods also provide the body with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Here are four complex carbohydrates that are highly nutritious and add variety to your diet.

Quinoa (left) is an ancient food that has been a staple in Bolivia, Peru, and Chile for 5,000 years but has only been popularized in the modern world since the 1980s. Called the ‘mother grain’ and considered sacred by the Inca, quinoa is a highly nutritious seed that is cooked and eaten like a grain; it is a high energy food, great source of fiber, and a complete protein due to the presence of all essential amino acids. Quinoa can be mixed with vegetables, eaten in soups and salads, or with lentils and daal (as a substitute for rice). Quinoa can also be eaten as a breakfast cereal with milk. The possibilities are endless and limited just by your imagination.




Farro (right) is an ancient type of wheat grain that dates back to the Roman Empire. It packs in a healthy dose of complex carbs and is a better option than wheat. Even though farro contains gluten, it is much easier to digest than wheat. Farro is high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, has more protein than wheat, and keeps blood sugar levels steady when eaten. Farro has a nutty flavor and a coarse texture and is available at many grocery stores. Use farro as a substitute for rice in any dish. Farro can be consumed hot with vegetables, lentils, or meats, or cold in a salad with grilled meats and veggies. Blue Corn Flour. Blue corn is a dietary staple of Mexico and parts of Central America.





Blue ​Corn flour (left) can be used to make tortillas, pancakes, and baked chips. It is a great source of complex carbohydrate, better than yellow and white corn. Blue corn flour (not to be confused with masa harina, which is not whole grain) is best obtained from a specialty Mexican grocery store—some stores even provide freshly ground blue corn flour already kneaded and ready to make into tortillas. This flour is best as it is not processed and is gluten free. Blue corn tortillas are easy to make with a tortilla press and are a healthier alternative to traditional rotis and chappatis, which are usually made with wheat or white flour. Highly nutritious and low on the glycemic index, these blue tortillas have a delicious flavor and go well with any Indian meat or vegetable dish. Why not give them a try?



Purple Sweet Potato (right) is rich in complex carbs and fiber and is considered a super food! While the purple sweet potato originated in Central America, several varieties are found in Japan and Hawaii. In fact, the Japanese on Okinawa Island, which produces the most centenarians, credit the purple sweet potato for their longevity and good health. High in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, the purple potato is low on the glycemic index, making it suitable for diabetics. Full of anthocyanins, the purple sweet potato has numerous health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and fighting cancer. It can be baked or grilled, and makes a healthier option than white or yellow potatoes. The purple sweet potato can be purchased at international farmers’ markets, Asian groceries such as H-Mart, or online, and is definitely a healthy addition to your diet.


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Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404)-376-5655; info@aartifitness.com.

This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.

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