Navigating your way around what carbohydrates to eat can sometimes feel like a challenge.
I have found there has always been this stigma around whether carbohydrates are good or bad. And while anything refined and processed isn’t going to be doing your body any favours, it doesn’t mean you need to put all carbohydrates in a good or bad category – they’re just different.
I remember learning about the various carbohydrates and feeling very overwhelmed, so I want to provide this information to you so you can feel confident and easily choose a beneficial carbohydrate that will leave you feeling great.
One thing that you might find yourself doing is not eating that potato with dinner because you think it’s going to put weight on, but you have a high sugar dessert (and a raw cake counts here too) or biscuits and tea later. What I would suggest is to weigh up the health benefits and ask yourself would it be more beneficial to eat that potato with your dinner than choose a dessert.
Also, if you’re eating out and you know there will be extra meals and desserts served then you may want to reduce other carbohydrates to balance your daily intake. I’m not saying eat fewer quality foods so you can have the desserts but I’m sure you have experienced this where you had the opportunity to eat an antipasto platter followed by your main meal (often with chips included), then dessert followed by other nibbles and tea.
Whereas at home we would usually have only had one meal for dinner, so to balance your carbohydrate intake you want to have an eating strategy that leaves you feeling satisfied.
What I feel is important when it comes to eating is to have a satisfying meal that fills you up (generally because of the protein amount) and doesn’t leave you looking for a sweet snack afterwards.
And being able to ease your mind and simplify what carbohydrates are going to give you the greatest benefit will be a helpful tool that will leave you feeling even more satisfied within yourself.
Eating the most beneficial carbohydrates is important – especially in your 40s – because a flexible eating strategy can support your healthy longevity.
The reason you want to eat beneficial carbohydrates in your 40s is as your hormones fluctuate and your metabolism changes so does how your body breaks down food, in particular carbohydrates. The body becomes less efficient at using glucose (carbohydrates) for energy and more efficient at using fats and proteins for energy meaning that as a general guide for each meal you would aim to eat protein, veggies, and fats on ¾ of your plate and carbohydrates on ¼.
It’s helpful to know the different categories of carbohydrates, some healthy choices to pick from and being able to navigate your way around what carbohydrates are beneficial for you to support your health.
The main two carbohydrate categories are:
Simple and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates provide your body with short term immediate energy and include glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose.
Food examples include fruit, honey, sugar and sugar alternatives, white refined foods, breads, cereals, pasta, white rice, and bakery foods.
Complex carbohydrates include grains and vegetables. They provide increased vitamin and minerals and provide your body with satiety, energy, and endurance because they are absorbed at a slower rate by your body. They also support improved bowel function and calm the nerves and gut bacteria if chewed and cooked properly.
There are two subcategories within complex carbohydrates, which are starchy and non-starchy carbohydrates.
Starchy carbohydrates: wholegrains, buckwheat, rye, spelt, quinoa, millet, ancient grains, oats, wheat (unprocessed), barley, brown rice, and amaranth.
Non-starchy carbohydrates: all vegetables except potato, pumpkin, sweet corn, and sweet potato.
When you’re choosing these forms of carbohydrates the body can efficiently use them as a source of energy to help reduce fatigue, mood changes and sugar cravings.
Excess glucose from carbohydrates is stored in the liver as glycogen for use when you’re exercising or more active. The glycogen converts to glucose by enzymes, so you maintain adequate energy levels. But if you’re eating more processed and white carbohydrates than needed for your daily intake, the pancreas releases more insulin which leads to increased blood sugar levels and then quickly decreases, which creates energy slumps.
If this becomes a consistent pattern it can lead to insulin resistance and eventually Type II Diabetes.
Now you know what carbohydrates you will be choosing, let’s have a look at the ideal intake of carbohydrates to eat each day.
Research recommends the daily carbohydrate needs of most active individuals to be based on a g/kg body weight formula with majority coming from wholegrains and complex carbohydrates.
The range for carbohydrates is 1 – 12g per kg of body weight per day.
This range will vary depending on the level of weekly exercise, type of exercise and your body shape goals. So, adjusting your intake based on these variables can be monitored by you or book in for an appointment with me for individualised support.
Because it’s not just about what carbohydrates you’re eating, it’s also about the quality and quantity.
And that’s an equation worth knowing.
To your health and wellness
BHSc Naturopathy, CCL Massage & Beauty Therapy, Cert III Fitness
Australian Government Nutrient Reference Values, (2014). Macronutrient balance. https://www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/macronutrient-balance