A Simple Guide to Understanding Carbs
It’s super important to be able to read and understand the labels on food so we can make an educated decision on how the food will impact our health. Here is the Keto Reset guide to understanding the carbohydrate content of food.
Why should you care about how much carbs you eat?
When we work will clients, the aim is always to keep their blood sugars as stable as possible. This can be a difficult challenge because there are many things that influence how your body deals with blood sugars. However what we do know is that poor blood sugar control results in common health conditions including:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Lethargy and Adrenal Fatigue
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Brain fogginess and inability to focus
- Weight gain, fat storage, difficulty losing weight – for most people, excess weight is from high subcutaneous fat storage; the fat in IR is generally stored in and around abdominal organs.
- Increased blood cholesterol levels
- Increased blood pressure; many people with hypertension have elevated insulin levels due to insulin resistance
Therefore our goal is always to improve health by stabilising blood glucose levels and when we do this, health improvements tend to be significant.
So what does this have to do with Carbohydrates in your food? Carbohydrates are the primary food source that increases blood sugar levels because they are readily converted to glucose in the body. Protein does a little, but not drastically and fat doesn’t increase blood sugar levels. Have a look at the graph below and see how within an hour of eating food, the effect it has on blood sugar levels.
Our body is pretty clever though, and it does convert protein and fat into glucose via a pathway call GLUCONEOGENESIS. But the body only makes glucose if it needs to and for the most part, people will eat enough carbohydrate. This is why carbs aren’t an essential nutrient because our bodies can make them!
This is why understanding the carb content of your food is essential for good health.
Here is an example of a nutrition label.
Total Carbohydrate, shown in grams, it gives you the total number of usable carbs per serving. In the example given above, this is 25g per ¾ cup serving.
The most important thing you need to take away from this is that CARBOHYDRATES, once digested are broken down into simple sugar molecules to be utilised by the body. This means that no matter what form you eat carbs in, eventually they will rise your blood sugar levels and produce the same insulin response. Therefore, if you are someone who is sensitive to carbs, who is diabetic or insulin resistant (which is a large number of the population these days) - this is the most important number to look at. You want this number to be low.
Types of carbs included in the total carbohydrate number are starches, complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, added sugars, and non-digestible additives.
The subheadings under Total Carbohydrate are:
- Dietary Fibre, sometimes broken down into Soluble and Insoluble Fibre
- Sometimes categories for Sugar Alcohols and/or Other Sugars
The total of these numbers will not always equal the total carbs because some starches — types of carbs often used as binders or thickeners — aren’t required to be listed on food labels.
Shown in grams, gives you the amount of fibre per serving. Dietary fibre is indigestible, usually passes through your intestinal tract without being absorbed, doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels, and slows down the impact of the other carbs in a meal. Subtracting fibre from the total carbs gives you the number of net carbs – the ones that do affect your blood sugar. This is important when eating Keto, we want the net carbs on your food to be low.
In the example, this is 5g fibre per ¾ cup serving.
Therefore: 25g total - 5g fibre = 20g carbs per serving that will impact your blood sugar levels.
Shown in grams, gives you the total amount of carbohydrate from naturally occurring sugars like lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) PLUS any added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, brown and white sugar, cane juice, etc. Added sugars are the sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation. They add carbs and calories but little or no nutrients.
You can determine if there are a lot of added sugars by checking the product’s ingredients label. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity so if added sugars are listed in the top three or four ingredients you can guess that the bulk of the sugars are added, not naturally occurring.
Here is a list of all the different names for sugars…. there are MANY!
The question now is, how many carbs should should I have???
Our recommendations for everyone are as follows:
What are the best carbs to eat?
The best source of carbs is always going to be vegetables - eat them at every meal! Fruit is also a good source of carbs, especially for children.
If you have any questions about this blog, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org