For a beginner, it can be a nightmare trying to figure out all the jargon that the nutritionists and fitness coaches put out there regarding the various diet plans and ways of staying healthy. Let’s for once put them all in one place in layman’s terms.
Why all the talk about carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy and are important for the proper function of everything from muscle contractions to brain activity. Carbohydrates are classified into two basic groups: simple and complex.
As the name suggests, they are simple – typically one-sugar molecule (mono-saccharides) or two-sugar molecules (di-saccharides). This category includes refined carbohydrates, which are swiftly digested and release sugar quickly into the bloodstream. They are good when a quick, readily available source of energy is required, such as before or during physical activity. However, if eaten too regularly and in large amounts, these carbohydrates can create energy imbalance in our body with energy highs and lows. Few examples of such carbohydrates are white bread, honey, pastries, sugar and biscuits.
These starchy carbs are made up of many simple sugars joined together by bonds – the more bonds there are, the more complex it gets and the longer our body takes to break these carbs down. Eating complex carbohydrates can reduce the chances of feeling fatigue or hungry between meals. The best sources are those that have undergone the least processing – such wholegrains include jumbo oats, brown rice, spelt, rye, sweet potatoes and barley.
Carbohydrates and weight-loss journey
While trying to cut down your weight, complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your carbohydrate consumption, as they are the best source of nutrients, fibre and usually carry a glycemic index (GI).
Low-carb diets also have health benefits beyond weight loss, such as reducing risk factors associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Help me find this carb thingy
Many carbohydrates occur naturally in plant-based foods, such as grains. In natural form, carbohydrates can be thought of as complex and fibrous such as the carbohydrates found in whole grains and legumes, or they can be less complex such as those found in milk and fruit. Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include:
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
What should I know to get on a low carb diet
The idea behind the low-carb diet is that, decreasing carbs lower insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss.
A low-carb diet usually carry high on proteins – including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and some non-starchy vegetables. A low-carb diet generally limits most grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds. Some low-carb diet plans allow small amounts of certain fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A daily limit of 60 to 130 grams of carbohydrates is typical with a low-carb diet. These amounts of carbohydrates provide 240 to 520 calories.
Some low-carb diets greatly restrict carbs during the initial phase of the diet and then gradually increase the number of allowed carbs. Very low-carb diets restrict carbohydrates to 60 grams or less per day.
Sounds great! But how do I apply this in my diet?
While on low carb diet, avoid the below:
- Sugar:Soft drinks, fruit juices, agave, candy, ice cream and many others.
- Gluten Grains:Wheat, spelt, barley and rye. Includes breads and pastas.
- Trans Fats:“Hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils.
- High GI: White rice, white bread and the likes
- Highly Processed Foods:Stay away from any processed food. Make sure to read the ingredients list, even when they are labeled ‘healthy food’.
Make sure to read ingredients lists, even on foods labelled as “healthy food.”
While on low carb, base your diet on these real, unprocessed, high protein foods like:
- Meat:Beef, lamb, pork, chicken and others. Grass-fed is best.
- Fish:Salmon, trout, haddock and many others. Wild-caught fish is best.
- Eggs:Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best.
Consume plenty of fibrous carbohydrates
- Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and other green leafy vegetables.