4 ways to improve your carbohydrate intake

Do you think carbs are unhealthy? This blog is for you

Carbohydrates or carbs are often blamed for weight gain and feeling bloated. But carbohydrates are not “bad” or “unhealthy”. The truth is, foods like bread, rice, potato and pasta have numerous health benefits. So the simple answer is yes, carbohydrates belong in a healthy eating pattern and in fact, vital organs need carbohydrates to function their best.

Understanding carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in plant-based foods, like fruits and veggies. However, food manufacturers also add carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of starch or added sugar.

Some common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Milk

  • Grains

  • Seeds

  • Legumes

Types of carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugar - Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits and vegetables and dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt. The most common types of sugar include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose).

  • Starch - Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables like potato, peas and pumpkin, grains, and cooked beans.

  • Fibre - Fibre is also a complex carbohydrate. It occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans. There are also different types of fibre which all play important roles in keeping our gut bugs happy and maintaining weight. Keep an eye out for this upcoming blog post!

How many carbohydrates do we need?

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Dietary recommends that carbohydrates make up between 45 to 65 percent of your total daily macronutrient intake.

So, if you eat 7,000 kilojoules a day, between 3,000 and 4,500 kilojoules should be from carbohydrates. An Accredited Practising Dietitian can help you to translate these numbers into food and develop a tailored meal plan considering many factors like your dietary goals, food preferences and physical activity level.

Carbohydrates and our health

Despite the widespread belief, carbohydrates are important for your overall good health and wellbeing for a number of reasons.

  • Energy boosting - Carbohydrates are your body's main fuel source. During digestion, sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars. They are then absorbed into your bloodstream, and then known as blood sugar or blood glucose. From there, glucose enters your body's cells with the help of a hormone, insulin. Glucose is used by your body for energy, and fuels all of your activities — whether it's going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use, or is converted to fat.

  • Protect against disease - We know that whole grains and dietary fibre from whole foods can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fibre may also protect against weight gain and type 2 diabetes and is essential for happy gut bugs.

  • Control weight - Evidence shows that eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains every day can help you control your weight. Their bulk and fibre content aids weight control by helping you feel full while eating minimal kilojoules or calories.

Simple ways to incorporate carbohydrates into our day

Here's how you can incorporate nutritious and delicious carbohydrates into your daily balanced diet:

  • Eat 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables every day - Aim for whole fresh, frozen or canned fruits and veggies without added sugar. Fruits and vegetables are high in fibre, water and bulk, which help you feel fuller for longer. Remember to eat the peel!

  • Choose wholegrain or wholemeal - Wholegrain and wholemeal breads and cereals are better choices than white bread for example because during the refining process, the nutrient rich fibre is stripped out.

  • Eat more legumes - Legumes like beans, peas and lentils are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. They are typically low in fat and high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium, and they contain fibre! Legumes are a also a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more saturated fat and cholesterol. Have you tried the San Remo Pulse Pasta?

  • Limit added sugars - Added sugar probably isn't harmful in small amounts, but there are no health advantages to consuming any amount of added sugar. The Australian Guideline to Healthy Eating recommends that less than 10 percent of your total daily kilojoules come from added sugar food sources like chocolate, lollies, cakes and sugary drinks.

So enjoy eating carb foods while limiting foods with added sugars which are packed with kilojoules but low in nutrition. Instead, go for fruits, veggies and wholegrain or wholemeal breads and cereals.

If you think you need to make simple and realistic dietary changes to improve your current eating pattern, book an appointment with me

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