Although carbohydrate is essential in
our diet and is the preferred source of fuel for our bodies, in the
UK we generally eat too much carbohydrate.
When a food that is high in carbohydrate is eaten, it is essentially broken down into sugar. This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels and the body responds by producing insulin to transport the sugar into the cells for storage. Unfortunately, there is only limited storage for this sugar and any excess gets converted to fat and stored.
If carbohydrate intake is limited to 40 per cent of your diet, along with 30 per cent protein and 30 percent fat, then typically blood sugar levels stabilise. When blood sugar levels are stable, a hormone called glucagon is produced to mobilise fat by drawing it out of the cells. It is then metabolised as fuel - this helps with weight loss.
What are Carbohydrates?
There are two types of carbohydrate:
- Sugars or simple carbohydrates: these are absorbed very quickly into the blood and will have the greatest effect on blood sugar levels.
- Starches or complex carbohydrates: these are absorbed more slowly into the blood and will have less impact on blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate and Weight Loss
The two key things to consider for weight loss are:
- The volume of any type of carbohydrate consumed.
- The speed at which the carbohydrate is absorbed into the blood as sugar.
As well as being in obvious foods such as fruit, chocolate bars,
breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, squashes etc, sugars are also
present in virtually all processed food. They are often high in
'healthy eating' and 'low fat' food options too, where fat is
replaced with sugar.
Starches can be found in foods such as vegetables, potatoes, breads, pasta, rice, oats, etc. The best source of starch comes from natural foods such as vegetables and potatoes because these have the least impact on blood sugar levels.
Bread, pasta and rice have more of an impact on blood sugar levels than vegetables; wholemeal varieties are best.
Recommendations for Carbohydrate Intake
- Limit carbohydrate intake to 40%
- Limit white bread, white pasta and white rice
- Limit sources of sugar such as cakes, biscuits, processed foods and low fat foods
- Choose to eat vegetables over wholemeal bread, pasta and
- Choose fruit for sugar