Published: Aug 08, 2014 8:42 AM EDT

Carbs are Your Friend

Eating some carbs can actually assist in your weight loss!

The key to making sure carbohydrates are your friend is to choose portion-controlled, quality carbohydrates. In fact, opting for quality carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and veggies will help you feel satisfied and show off a leaner, more energetic body. Good quality carbs are the ones packed with fiber and nutrients and that aren’t processed into a lesser food. There are many reasons you shouldn’t be afraid of carbs.

Hello, energy!

Carbs are the number-one fuel for your brain and for your muscles. Without them, you’ll have trouble focusing, you’ll feel tired and, when it comes to exercise, your workouts will suffer—you’ll feel physically and mentally exhausted. The fix? Simply have a small portion of a healthy carbohydrate with each meal and snack so that your brain and muscles have a constant supply. For example (the quality carbohydrate and portion suggestion is first in each snack): ½ cup oatmeal and a hardboiled egg; a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter; an apple and 30 pistachios.

They’ve got fiber.

This means that not only do they help to fill you up for very few calories, but they help to keep you regular and flush waste out of your body. Looking for a flatter tummy? Fiber helps prevents constipation resulting in fewer bulges in the belly.

They boost your mood.

Have a carbohydrate and soon you’ll be singing Pharrell’s song Happy. That’s because carbohydrates boost your body’s feel-good chemical, serotonin. Again, the key is the wholesome, unprocessed carbs—reach for sugar and the Happy boost will be short-lived and quickly followed by a low (a.k.a. “a sugar crash”).

They make your heart sing.

Quality carbohydrates keep your ticker in good shape. They help to fight disease as well as protect the heart against damaging free radicals. Plus, their fiber fights diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Of course leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus fruits, apples and grains like oats and brown rice all fit the quality carbohydrate bill, but don’t forget about beans (legumes), which are one of the best foods for your heart. Ideas? Black bean, corn, tomato and avocado salad; hummus sandwich with spinach; or a three-bean salad.

Carbs can help trim your waistline.

Choose whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates and you actually may reduce your total fat and your belly fat (score!). According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, if you can get about three servings of whole grains a day, you’ll have about 2.4 percent less body fat and 3.6 percent less belly fat than those people who eat less than a quarter serving of whole grains.

Quality carbs may help your waistline because they help you to feel full longer. Remember to drink water with your meals as the fiber in the carbohydrate will act as a sponge in your stomach, filling you up, making you feel more satisfied and helping to prevent you from overeating.

They prevent sugar cravings. 

Skip out on energy-providing carbs for your brain and muscles and you’ll crave energy. In fact, your brain will crave the quickest pick-up it can get—sugar. An easy way to prevent this is to fuel your brain with quality carbohydrates—those with fiber and nutrients. Is that a quinoa and black-bean burger we smell?