Carbohydrates are the last of the three macronutrients that are an essential component of your daily diet (along with protein and fats). While these molecules are the preferred energy source for movement, growth and repair, any excess carbs are quickly converted to fat for long-term storage. Therefore, for optimum health and weight control, the aim is to eat only the amount of carbs that keep your blood sugar levels low and stable.
To keep your blood sugar levels stable, and therefore, prevent fat storage, your daily carbohydrate intake should not exceed 20% of your total daily calories. For most women who wish to maintain their weight (1800 Kcal), this equates to consuming no more than 90g of carbohydrates a day, and for men (2200 Kcal) no more than 110g. However, when you exercise for over 30 mins you can increase your intake by adding additional carbs to match your energy needs.
To put these intakes into practice, let’s assume that a portion of carbs is equal to 10g. This would mean that women should aim for less than 9 portions per day (7 portions if striving for weight loss) and men no more than 11 portions (9 portions for weight loss). The list below shows the quantities of carbs in different foods:
3 carb portions (roughly 30g): 100g white pasta, 80g fresh/canned prunes, 80g rye bread, 50g pulses, 50g scones, 40g cranberries.
2 carb portions (roughly 20g): 200ml fruit juice, 120g Greek yogurt, 120g pearl barley, 100g oats, quinoa, white rice, buckwheat, sweet potatoes & potatoes, 90g brown rice, 80g noodles, 80g banana & fresh dates, 60g wholemeal bread & couscous, 50g white bread, 40g jam, 30g dried fruit.
carb portion (roughly 10g): 330ml beer, 200g cottage cheese, 100ml coke & tonic water, 100g baked beans, 80g artichoke hearts & parsnips, 80g pulses, 80g blueberries, grapes, lychees, apple, blackcurrants, cherries, guava, mango, physalis & pomegranate, 60g sweetcorn, 50g lentils & falafels, 40g low carb bread.
¾ carb portion (roughly 8g): 80g apple puree, blackberries, clementine’s, fresh figs, gooseberries, kiwi, nectarine, orange, papaya, pear, pineapple, plum, satsuma & tangerines, 80g butternut squash, carrot, parsnips, onion & peas, 60g hummus, 50g fresh coconut, 40g sunflower seeds, 25g chocolate (70%).
½ carb portion (roughly 5g): 175ml wine, 150g soya mince, 150ml veg juice, 100ml milk, 80g celeriac, beetroot, swede, tomatoes, turnip, sugar snap peas, peppers, pumpkin & frozen mixed veg, 80g apricots, grapefruit, melon, raspberries, strawberries, passion fruit, peach & watermelon, 75g coleslaw, 40g pumpkin seeds, 25g chocolate (85%).
As you can see, most foods contain carbs and some foods contain a lot of carbs. Therefore, the aim is to actively reduce your carbs intake.
All carbohydrates are made-up of chains of sugar units. Carbohydrates with short chains (i.e. fruit) are known as simple sugars, while those with large chains (i.e. potatoes) are known as complex carbs. The shorter the chain, the quicker the sugar units are broken down in the digestive system, absorbed through the intestinal wall, and raise blood sugar levels. Therefore, the aim is to eat healthy unrefined complex carbohydrates and limit your consumption of simple sugars, especially those that are refined:
Unrefined complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, brown rice, beans, rye, whole-wheat pasta, whole grains and oatmeal contain unprocessed, naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. In moderation, these carbohydrates contain metabolism-driving nutrients and are an excellent source of dietary fibres, both of which have a positive effect on your body.
Refined complex carbohydrates, such as, white flour, white rice, white bread and white pasta are heavily processed. The fibre and many naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes are removed by harsh processing methods to make these foods more pleasant to taste. With limited nutrition refined complex carbohydrates have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels and metabolism, causing fat-gain.
Natural simple sugars are found in foods such as fruits, milk products and some vegetables. Natural sugars are considered healthier than refined sugars, as they contain vitamins and minerals. However, all simple sugars have a significant impact on blood sugar levels and should be limited. It is for this reason that fruits should be restricted to less than 2 portions a day.
Refined simple sugars are sugar compounds that have been removed from natural products by many harsh processing methods. The refining process strips away vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes and other beneficial nutrients to leave a concentrated unnatural chemical that your body cannot process, especially in large quantities. Refined sugars have such an adverse impact on your health that they are often referred to as the ‘curse of civilisation’. Not only are they involved in hypoglycaemia, diabetes and obesity, but they also contribute to a host of other conditions. Most people have no idea how much refined sugar they consume each day, because they are hidden in so many foods. However, if you are serious about your health and weight, you must get serious about decreasing your refined sugar intake. Take the time to read ingredient lists and avoid food high in: table sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, crystallised cane juice, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, palm sugar, raw sugar, sucrose & syrup.
In summary, the carbohydrate aim is to keep your intake low, aiming for around 7-9 portions for women and 9-11 portions for men. In addition, try to include unrefined complex carbs, limit natural simple sugars and avoid refined complex carbs and refined simple sugars.
BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy, memBANT, memNT, memCNCH
For more information on health and weight loss see ‘The Meta-Keto Diet’. This book is available as an eBook (£6.99), or in paperback (£15.99), via the Secret Healthy Eater Shop; www.secrethealthyeater.com/shop.
drawing by NEONCURRY