To Carb or Not to Carb - That is

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					                     TO CARB OR NOT TO CARB?

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the body's prime energy source. They help in the proper
function of the brain as well as the body's muscles. When you eat them they
are largely* (*see info on resistant starch under high carbohydrate intake) converted to
glucose and move into your bloodstream, triggering the release of insulin
which ensures that the glucose is then transported to cells for energy storage
as glycogen (in the muscles & liver) or as body fat. When you are active, this
stored glycogen is then used as energy.

Simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides are made up of only one kind of
sugar. It could either be fructose (fruit sugar), glucose (corn sugar), sucrose
(table sugar), lactose, and maltose. This is the type of carbohydrate that is
quickly turned into glucose after consumption, so the bloodstream can absorb
it and transport it all over the body. Because of its fast transformation, its
effect is a sudden boost of energy to your body (High Glycaemic Index or GI).
Complex carbohydrates or polysaccharides are composed of different types of
sugar. These carbohydrates normally take longer to digest and as such this
energy lasts longer and doesn’t produce spikes in blood sugar levels (Low Gl).
Look for this symbol when shopping for low GI foods:
    Carbohydrates and Weight Loss

    The topic of carbohydrate and weight loss is a complicated one as information
    and research over the years has varied greatly. Even today there are different
    schools of thought. In this article I will look at 3 separate approaches to
    carbohydrate intake:
       1. Very low carbohydrate intake:   < 100g per day     (< than 30% of total intake)
       2. Mod low carbohydrate intake:    100 – 300g per day (30-55% of total intake)
       3. High carbohydrate intake:        > 300g per day    (>55% of total intake)

       1. Very low carbohydrate intake – the ketogenic approach

     Ketosis is a state where our body burns stored fat for energy instead of
    carbohydrates. This state can be artificially induced by restricting the intake of
    carbohydrates in our diet to less than 100g per day which forces our body to
    utilize other energy sources to fuel normal bodily functions and
    activity. Examples of this approach are the Atkins Diet.

   Drastically reduce cravings for high carbohydrate foods
   Encourage dieters to consume fewer total calories
   Increase fat burning
   Stabilize blood sugar levels
   Discourage emotional eating
   Increase dieters mental clarity throughout the day
   Help dieters maintain consistent energy levels
   Encourage better quality sleep
   Achieve significant weight loss quickly
   Encourage dieters to enjoy great tasting, high-fat foods, such as bacon, eggs,
    cheese, steaks, sausage, cream, mayonnaise, butter, etc (Atkins diet)
   Keep dieters satisfied longer after eating, using protein, which is said to curb
    hunger better than carbohydrates or fat
   Be safe for Diabetics if they are closely monitored by their health care
    provider, and their blood sugar levels are kept low and stable
   Can be beneficial in controlling epileptic seizures, specifically in children.
    Potential problems with very low-carbohydrate diets

   Diets that totally cut out some low-carbohydrate foods, like fruit, bread, cereal
    and vegetables, may put dieters at serious risk of long-term health problems
    such as osteoporosis, kidney damage, high cholesterol, cancer, heart rhythm
    disturbances and sudden death
   In pregnancy, ketosis may cause foetal abnormality or death
   Can encourage dieters to rely solely on diet to control their weight
   Can cause muscle loss which results in a generally slower metabolism, which
    makes losing weight more difficult and gaining it back easy
   Unhealthy levels of Ketones can lead to an increase of uric acid, raising our risk
    for gout and kidney stones and depleting our body's mineral reserves
   An accumulation of Ketones is particularly dangerous for people who have
    uncontrolled diabetes, who have problems with alcohol, or who are on
    extended starvation diets
   Some low-carbohydrate diets can be lacking in fibre and antioxidants
   Very high protein diets can affect bone strength & place strain on kidneys
   Boredom with low-carb diets can decrease sustainability
   Quick initial weight loss is deceptive because most of that loss comes from
    depleting glycogen stores in the muscle and liver which leads to dehydration &
    muscle loss which may be mistakenly interpreted by the dieter as fat loss
   Can deplete muscle glycogen causing fatigue & uncomfortable movement
   The effect of high glycemic foods is often exaggerated by promoters of low-
    carb diets and the total glycemic effect of foods which is influenced by the
    quantity and mix of foods that we eat is often ignored
   Glycemic index values can be misleading because they are based on a standard
    (minimum) amount of carbohydrate consumed which may represent
    unrealistic amounts for some healthier foods which are otherwise categorized
    as High GI (such as carrots for example)
   Regular exercisers and active people also are less affected by higher glycemic
    foods because much of the carbohydrate consumed is immediately used to
    replenish glycogen stores in the liver and muscle
   Weight loss that is too rapid is undesirable because it has potential health
    hazards and is often regained because faulty habits remain in place
   Low-carbohydrate diets may not be compatible with some medications
   Some low-carb diets can leave dieters feeling run down & low on energy and
    suffering from gas, constipation, dehydration, bad breath, crankiness &
   Good muscle and skin tone is hard to maintain on some low-carbohydrate
    diets because glycogen stores in our muscles are depleted
     Meal                 Protein              Carbs              Fibrous Veg              Fat
Breakfast       2 egg whites &           1/2 grapefruit     Omelette-type          (Fat contained
                1 whole egg &            or                 veggies (green         within yolk and
                85g ground turkey        1/3 cup oatmeal    peppers, onion,        meat)
                breast or lean beef or   (before cooking)   etc.)
                chopped ham -
                make as omelette
Mid Morning     2 scoops of low-carb                                               2 tsps all-natural
                protein powder (shake)                                             peanut butter
Lunch           140g chicken breast or                      1 cup green            1-2 tsp flax seed
                turkey breast,                              vegetables -           oil (plus fat
                or                                          broccoli, spinach,     contained in
                170g fish or tuna                           green beans, or        meat)
                (Grilled or baked)                          asparagus
Mid Afternoon   170g can of Tuna or                         Celery or carrots      1-2 tsp flax seed
                Chicken,                                                           oil (can skip this if
                or                                                                 eating a bar).
                2 scoops low-carb
                protein powder (as a
                shake or pudding),
                low-carb protein bar
Dinner          140g chicken breast or                      2 cups Spinach         1 TBS olive oil
                turkey breast or fish                       leaves with salad-     and vinegar
                or lean steak                               type veggies           dressing
                                                            (broccoli, radishes,   (plus fat
                                                            cucumbers, green       contained in
                                                            onions, etc.)          meat).

   2. Moderately Low Carbohydrate Intake

Eating excessive amounts of carbs, particularly high GI carbs leads to sharp
rises in blood sugar levels, which if done consistently may trigger a vicious
circle where insulin is over produced, resulting in fluctuating blood sugar &
energy levels this sets up cravings for even more carbohydrates. Over a long
period of time this can make the cells less sensitive to insulin (a condition
called insulin resistance) resulting in the person feeling sluggish, tired, irritable
& overweight & possibly leading to diabetes & cardiovascular disease.

Proponents of a moderately low carbohydrate intake (100-300g per day) argue
that this helps to control the body’s production and utilisation of insulin and
allows stored body fat to be used as the body’s energy source rather than
recently consumed carbohydrates.
     Meal               Protein                  Carbs            Fibrous Veg               Fat
Breakfast       2 egg whites &            1/2 cup oatmeal    Omelette-type          (fat contained
                1 whole egg &             (before cooking)   veggies (green         within yolk and
                175ml skim milk           or                 peppers, onions,       oatmeal)
                                          1 medium sized     etc) - optional
                                          2 slices whole
                                          grain toast
Mid Morning     1/2 Cup low-fat yogurt,   4-5 strawberries                          1 tsp all-natural
                or                        or                                        peanut butter
                1/2 cup low-fat cottage   4-5 peach slices
                or                        (can be frozen
                2 scoops low-carb         variety)
                protein powder
Lunch           115g chicken breast or    17g sweet          1 cup green            1-2 tsp flax seed
                turkey breast,            potato or red      vegetables -           oil (plus fat
                or                        potato,            broccoli, spinach,     contained in
                140g fish or tuna         or                 green beans, or        meat.)
                (Grilled or Baked)        1/2 cup brown      asparagus
                                          rice (before
                                          or 1/2 cup
                                          kidney beans
Mid Afternoon   100g can of Tuna or       1 slice whole      Carrot or celery       1-2 tsp flax seed
                Chicken,                  grain bread        sticks                 oil (can skip if
                or                        or                                        having bar)
                low-carb protein shake    1 small apple
                or bar
Dinner          115g chicken breast or                       2 cups Spinach         1 TBS olive (or
                turkey breast                                leaves with salad-     safflower) oil and
                 or fish or lean steak                       type veggies           vinegar dressing
                                                             (broccoli, radishes,   (plus fat
                                                             cucumbers, green       contained in
                                                             onions, etc.)          meat).

Carbohydrate cycling or having low and moderately low carbohydrate days can
be advantageous for weight loss. This type of carbohydrate zig zagging doesn’t
allow the body to get used to your intake and therefore weight loss plateaus
are less prevalent. One way to achieve this would be to maintain a low carb
intake for 5 days of the week, punctuated by 2 separate days in which the last
meal of the day is higher in carbohydrates i.e. Wednesday and Saturday or by
having 1 day with a higher carb dinner and 1 free meal per week (satisfy a
craving but just once per week)

Meal                Protein             Carbs                 Fibrous Veg            Fat
1                                       140g sweet            1 cup fibrous          1 tsp butter or
                                        potato & 1/3 cup      veggies (broccoli,     flaxseed oil
                                        oatmeal (before       spinach, green
                                        cooking) &            beans,
                                        1 small banana        asparagus)
2                                       1/2 cup whole-        1 cup fibrous          1 tsp butter or
                                        wheat pasta           veggies (broccoli,     flaxseed oil
                                        or                    spinach, green
                                        1/2 cup brown         beans,
                                        rice (before          asparagus)
                                        cooking) with
                                        marinara sauce,
                                        4 strawberries
3                                       Low-fat chilli with
                                        beans (with or
                                        without meat)

    3. High Carbohydrate Intake

Other studies have shown that eating higher levels (>300g per day) of complex,
low GI carbohydrates) such as grains, fruits, vegetables and reduced fat dairy
products can also have positive effects including the consumption of fewer
calories overall, lower BMI’s and greater intake of vitamin A, carotene, vitamin
C, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, sodium, fibre and water.

(Please note diets high in high GI carbs have been linked to cancer and other
forms of disease)


        Protein                       Carbs                  Fibrous Veg                    Fat
250ml low fat milk        35g wholegrain breakfast     2.5 cups vegetables         3 tsp canola oil
200g diet yoghurt         cereal
80g chicken/fish/meat     3 slices wholegrain bread
                          120g cooked pasta/rice
                          3 low fat biscuits
                          3 fruits

Historically starch found in carbs has been thought to be 100% digested to glucose in
the small intestine. Research over the last few decades has found that a significant
portion (about 10%) is not digested in the small intestine and passes into the large
intestine where it is a substrate for bacterial fermentation. This starch is called
resistant starch (RS) and many nutritionists think that it should be classified as a
component of dietary fibre.

The bacteria in the large intestine produce short chain fatty acids from the RS which
may help maintain the health of cells lining the colon (colonocytes) and prevent
bowel cancer. These fatty acids are also absorbed into the bloodstream and may play
a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels. A new study suggests that RS may also
help with weight loss.

A study by Higgins et al, published in October 2004 issue of Nutrition and
Metabolism showed that replacing 5.4% of the carbohydrate content of a meal with
resistant starch increased fat oxidation by 23% in a sample of 12 study subjects. This
increase is apparently sustained throughout the day, even if only meal contains RS
and the increased fat oxidation is sustained if one keeps eating RS on a daily basis. It
carbohydrates are used first, but when RS is present, dietary fat is oxidised first into
energy before it has a chance to be stored as body fat. This study suggests that
including foods high in RS daily may help with weight management.

Where is RS found?
   intact wholegrain cereals/seeds/nuts (unprocessed) e.g. oats, rye, wheat, barley,
semolina, corn, linseed, sesame
    processed starchy foods e.g. some breakfast cereals (like cornflakes), white bread,
rice, pasta or those with added RS called Hi-Maize derived from corn e.g. some
breads, cereals
    legumes e.g. lentils, baked beans (legumes have the highest content of RS)
    unripe fruit, especially banana
Cooking and cooling the food can also increase the RS content
   cooked cold rice (e.g. sushi rice), cold pasta salad, cold boiled potato salad
So why is some of the starch resistant to digestion and what does cooking
and cooling do to starch?

Starch is made up of glucose molecules linked together to form amylase and
amyl pectin. Amylase has a linear molecular structure and can stack to form
tightly packed granules which are insoluble and hard to digest whereas
amylopectin has a branched structure and thus cannot form tightly packed
granules and is thus easier to digest.

Most plants contain about 20-25% amylose. But some, like pea starch have
60% amylose and certain species of maize starch have 80% amylose (e.g. Hi-
Maize(r)) - these plants are therefore very high in RS.

The physical and chemical composition of starch determines whether starch is
digested in the small intestine or whether it ferments in the colon. There are
several reasons why starch may not be digested:

  Some starch may be physically trapped inside intact plant cells as in
wholegrain foods like muesli and grainy bread. This starch is therefore
inaccessible because digestive amylases are unable to penetrate or break
down the cellulose cell walls.
  The higher the amylose content of starch the greater its resistance to
digestion because they form tightly packed granules in cells. Raw potato, green
bananas, pulses and high amylose maize starch have a higher amylose
  When starch is heated, starch granules swell and are disrupted. This process,
known as gelatinisation, makes the starch much more accessible to digestive
enzymes. Starch with a high amylose content and starch which is inaccessible
due to the physical structure in which it is located, are less susceptible to
gelatinisation and hence are more resistant to digestion.
  When starch that has been heated, is cooled, retrogradation occurs
converting some of the gelatinised starch to a crystalline form which is
resistant to digestion. Foods, such as bread, cornflakes, cold cooked potato,
rice and pasta, contain retrograded starch which is resistant to digestion.
How much resistant starch is required for good health?
Some resistant starch is measured when total dietary fibre is measured.
However, there is currently no official analytical method for measuring the
resistant content of foods. It has been estimated that resistant starch intake in
Australia is around 5-7 grams/person/day. Approximately 20 grams a day is
recommended to obtain the beneficial health benefits of resistant starch.


(Foods marked below in bold have higher levels of resistant starch)

FOOD TYPE           LOW GI (<55)         MED GI (55-70)       HIGH GI (>70)
                    Break down and       Break down at an     Break down very
                    absorb slowly,       intermediate rate    quickly and cause
                    releasing glucose                         spikes in blood
                    gradually into the                        sugar levels
                    blood stream

Breads              Pumpernickel         Crumpets             White
                    Rye                  Pita Bread           Wholemeal
                    Mixed grain          Arrowroot            Bagels
                    Crisp bread          biscuits             Scones
                    Oat bread            Ryvita               Muffins
                    Fruit Loaf           Pastry               Rice cakes
                    Corn tortilla        Taco shells
                    Seeded bread
                    Soy & linseed
                    Authentic bakery
                    Sourdough bread

Breakfast Cereals   All Bran             One minute oats      Coco Pops
                    Course rolled oats   Mini Wheats          Cornflakes
                    Muslei (natural &    Nutrigrain           Rice Bubbles
                    toasted)             Vita Brits           Weet Bix
                    Wheat Bran or        Shredded Wheat       Bran Flakes
                    Oat Bran                                  Instant porridge
                    Special K                                 Puffed Wheat
Pasta, Rice,       Rice bran           Arborio             White rice
Noodles & Cereal   Barley (pearl)      Basmati             Canned Spaghetti
Grains             Spaghetti           Brown rice (most)   Corn pasta
                   Pasta               Couscous            Jasmine and most
                   Rice - Doongara     Polenta             varieties of rice
                   Clever, Moolgiri,   Wild rice           Rice pasta
                   Sushi                                   Pretzels
                   Bulgar or cracked                       Potato chips
                   wheat                                   Morning coffee
                   Noodles (most                           biscuits
                   Pearl couscous
                   cereals, seeds &
Veg & Legumes      Sweet corn          Beans               Instant mashed
                   Lentils             Broad bean          potatoes
                   Kidney, haricot &   New potatoes        Potatoes (most
                   baked beans         French fries        other varieties
                   Chick & black eye   Nicola and          Sweet potato
                   peas                almera potatoes     (white fleshed,
                   Butternut           Pumpkin (most       purple skin)
                   pumpkin             varieties)
                   Carrots             Swedes
                   Green peas          Sweet potato
                   Parsnips            Beetroot
                   Split peas
                   Carisma potatoes
Fruit              Apples              Ripe bananas        Watermelon
                   Pears               Pineapple           Lychees (canned
                   Grapefruit          Sultanas            in syrup)
                   Peaches             Orange juice
                   Plums               Cranberries
                   Oranges             (dried)
                   Cherries            Figs (dried)
                   Firm bananas        Lychees (fresh)
                   Dried apricots      Pawpaw
                   Blueberries and     Raisins
                   strawberries        Rockmelon
Dairy Foods                 Cow’s milk (all              Ice cream                    Rice milk
                            varieties)                   Oat milk
                            Low fat ice cream
                            Almond milk
                            Soy milk
Other                                                                                 Glucose & sports


So overall it seems that the old adage “Everything in moderation” still rings
true. Carbohydrates are a vital energy source and it is important to find a level
of carbohydrate intake that will support optimum health, maximize fat burning
and represent a sustainable and realistic dietary protocol. By cycling or zig
zagging moderately low to mod high amounts (100-300g) of low GI carbs
including a minimum of 20g per day of carbs high in resistant starch, balanced
with lean protein, low fat dairy & small amounts of good fats with the
occasional treat seems to be a good way to go to ensure that the body has
sufficient energy stores and nutritional supplies.
This information has been gathered from a variety of sources. I am not a doctor or dietician but aim to bring to
light information that is already available online.. In addition the levels of carbohydrates mentioned in this
article are for the general population. Athletes, depending on their classification may need to consume up to
1000g of carbohydrates daily to keep up with energy requirements.

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