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  • Writer's pictureJessica Botsas

Hot Topic! Carbohydrates.


How much should you eat? What type is best? You have sought answers from health professionals, and social media influencers.


Carbohydrates Are a Hot Topic and for Good Reason!


While they provide your body and brain with energy and prevent degradation of muscles and other tissues, they also have the power to steer the complete opposite direction and put you at risk for metabolic imbalances down the road if you are not prioritizing quality whole-food carbohydrates.


Quality Matters


Chronically over-consuming processed & refined carbohydrates may lead to insulin insensitivity, (insulin resistance). This can contribute to unbalanced energy, chronic sugar cravings, fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, pre-diabetes/diabetes, increased triglycerides, elevated cholesterol, and fatty liver.


If you feel best with lower carbohydrates in the diet, listen to your body, however they should not be eliminated completely. Carbohydrates are extremely important for hormone health. Most people do well with carbohydrates as long as they are of high quality sources, such as starchy vegetables, whole & sprouted grains and fresh fruits.


Combining Carbohydrates with Fiber, Protein, and Fat


Carbohydrates (and sugar) should ideally not be consumed in isolation of fiber (ex: fruit juice which is primarily composed of fructose, without the natural fiber found in fruit which acts as a buffer to slow down digestion/breakdown of sugar).


Always ensure that fiber is present, along with either some protein and/or quality fats which will help slow down digestion & avoid spiking your insulin - chronically spiking insulin may lead to pre-diabetes.


Combining carbohydrates, protein and quality fats will increase satiety & ensure a longer stretch of consistent energy (rather than a high boost of energy from sugar, followed by a low dip).

  • Example: 1 piece of sprouted whole grain toast with nut butter, 1/2 med banana, and 2 tbs of hemp seeds sprinkled on top (for a protein boost).


Pro Tips:


  1. When building a meal, prioritize protein first and build around your chosen protein source.

  2. For lunch and dinner, ensure 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables at each meal (half of your plate).

  3. Read the nutritional label on packaged food items, favour products containing 3g or more of fiber.

Prioritize - Whole Foods


  • Whole grains (wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa, sprouted whole grain products, etc).

  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash, fresh corn, etc).

  • Non starchy vegetables (leafy greens, cruciferous variety, celery, asparagus, tomato, etc).

  • Beans & Legumes (lentils, black beans, chickpeas, green peas, hummus, etc).

  • Fresh or frozen fruit.


Moderate - Refined & Transformed Carbohydrates


  • Fruit juice

  • Syrups (ex: high-fructose corn syrup)

  • Refined flour products that lack fiber - white breads, cakes, baked goods...

  • Some cold cereals

  • Soft drinks

  • Rice crackers / rice cakes

  • Sauces - BBQ, ketchup, etc.

  • Beer / wine


Leptin


One important hormone that is active in metabolism is called leptin - associated with satiety (fullness). One of it's primary roles is helping the body with weight regulation. The amount of leptin produced in the body is directly related to the amount of adipose (fat) tissue your body has. In other words, the less body fat, the less leptin you have, and the more body fat, the more leptin you have.


A person may become leptin resistant by chronically overeating (ignoring fullness signals) and by being overweight. Excess refined carbohydrate intake can also drive the desire to overeat & may affect fullness signals.


How to regulate your leptin?

  1. Food:

    1. Avoid highly processed foods

    2. Prioritize fiber (especially soluble fiber)

    3. Prioritize healthy fats (avocados, seeds, nuts, fatty fish, whole eggs, olive oil)

    4. Prioritize protein

  2. Lifestyle:

    1. Exercise (emphasis on resistance training to build lean muscle mass)

    2. Sleep 7-9 hours

    3. Minimize stress

    4. Lose excess body fat (if overweight)


How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat?


Recommendations for carbohydrate intake can vary from 25-45% of total calories. The division of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) you consume will depend on:

  • Stats - sex, age, height, weight

  • Health history

  • Goals

  • Activity level

  • Dietary restrictions (ex: vegan/vegetarian)

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