Oh, how we love our carbs. From breads and baked goods to sodas and candy, carbohydrates give us a sensation of comfort that is hard to beat. Unfortunately, carb overload especially simple carbs like sugar, white bread, and white rice is making us sick. An excess of simple carbs can cause or contribute to innumerable diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many forms of cancer.

But breaking the carb habit can be challenging. We do need a certain amount of carbohydrates to function, so its not like breaking an alcohol or substance addiction. We need to learn how to moderate, how to choose the most nutritious carbs, and how to ensure we are getting the best nutrition so we do not feel as pushed to overload on carbs.

1. Eat More Protein

Sometimes our addiction to one type of food is caused or exacerbated by a deficiency of another. When we eat sufficient protein, our metabolisms work more efficiently, we build more lean muscle instead of fat, and we have more energy. Strive to eat something with protein at every meal, especially in the morning.

2. Learn to Love Fat

Healthy fats fuel us in a way that balances and complements carb consumption. They can also satisfy the desire for something delicious in a way that actually supports the metabolism instead of depressing it. We still need to practice moderation with fats because of their density. But a little organic coconut oil, a handful of almonds, or half an avocado are great ways to fuel the body without too many carbs.

3. Choose Wisely

As mentioned previously, we do actually need some carbohydrates in our bodies. The key is to choose carbs that truly nourish the body. We want complex carbohydrates with lots of nutrients. Think leafy green vegetables, whole grains like millet and amaranth, and whole fruits like apples and bananas.

4. Yam I Am

Yams are a highly nutritious carb food that satisfy the need and desire for carby yumminess in a way that is healthy for the body. They are high in fiber and beta-carotene, and provide lasting energy.

5. Timing is Everything

A key to healthy carb management is choosing when to eat them. Carbs are fuel, and should be eaten when they can most effectively be burned. When we first wake up and just before bed the metabolism is slower, so we dont want to overwhelm it with carbs at those times. The best time to eat (complex) carbs is right after you work out, and/or midday, when the metabolism is at its highest and you will benefit from a big dose of slow-burning fuel.

6. Exercise

Often we eat carbs, especially sugar, for the feel-good brain chemical boost they give us. Vigorous exercise stimulates the release of some of the same brain chemicals, helping us feel good while doing good for our bodies. When you want to reach for a baked good, reach for your trainers and work out instead.

7. Finding Comfort

Carbs are as much about comfort as nutrition. To kick the habit it helps to find ways to comfort ourselves that are not food related. Often we would be more nurtured by a hot bath, calling an old friend, reading a beloved book, or snuggling up with a pet than eating a carby food product.

8. Kick Out the Sugar

Eating sugar puts us on a slippery slope. Once we trigger the blood sugar and brain chemical reactions that processed sugar set off, all we want to do is keep eating more simple carbs. To curb the cravings, you may need to go cold turkey on processed sugar. It may not be easy, but once you have cleared the sugar from your system the reduction in cravings will be noticeable and well worth the discipline.

9. Fiber to the Rescue

Carbs with fiber are a whole different animal than simple carbs. Fiber also helps heal the intestines and supports over all digestive health helping us assimilate the carbs we do eat more efficiently. Eat high fiber foods like sprouted legumes and gluten-free grains (if you are going to have carbs). Ground soaked flax seeds, chia seeds, chicory root, and vegetables are great ways to add fiber to your diet.

10. Mind Your Minerals

Minerals are an often-overlooked yet essential nutrient. Getting sufficient magnesium, calcium, zinc, and trace minerals is important for proper functioning of the entire body, and seems to mitigate carb cravings.

Carbohydrates are an essential food. But most people have way too many carbs and not enough other nutrients. Strive to include more protein and healthy fat in your diet. When you do eat carbs, go for highly nutritious complex carbs with lots of fiber. And look for sources of comfort that do not come from food, to ensure that you live a long and healthy life that is not dictated by a food group.