High carb foods are so easy to come by that you may be wondering if your intake is too high. About 50% of an average person's calories should come from carbohydrates. You can track this with an online food diary like MyFitnessPal, but there are signs from your body you can tune in to, to determine if you are getting too much...
You get sleepy after eating
When we eat more carbs than the body can process properly, our blood sugar rises then falls rapidly, causing us to feel tired. This is especially true if they are simple carbs like sugar, pop, juice, and milk or refined carbs like baked goods, bread, white rice and pasta. If this happens to you, you know that these “crashes” are extremely disruptive to your productivity. For example, do you typically start nodding off at your desk or at school around 10:30 am? Maybe you need to reevaluate what you had for breakfast- a muffin, bagel, or cereal does not cut it!
You crave carbs
Ever notice that after you have a muffin or a handful of chips, you want more rather than being satisfied? When carbohydrate-rich foods break down into sugar, that sugar attaches to opiate receptors in the brain, giving you that pleasure sensation. So when you have that craving for carbs, it probably means your intake is too high and you have become “addicted". You will notice that, when you cut your carbs down to a certain level, you lose that craving feeling which frees you to think about more important things during your day.
Another reason why we crave carb-laden foods is because they are tasty! Sugar just plain tastes good. But there are plenty of other ways to make our food taste great without using sugary condiments, like adding fat, herbs and spices. This is one of the hardest parts about cutting carbs but trust me, you get used to it and your taste buds change in a way that makes you unable to stand large amounts of sugar anymore.
You can’t lose weight
The spikes in blood sugar that come with eating high carb foods cause spikes in the hormone insulin whose job it is to send blood sugar into our cells where it can be used as energy. Insulin itself, however, is anabolic- meaning it builds. This is part of what causes weight gain in type 2 diabetics whose cells have become resistant to insulin, so the sugar cannot be used for energy and is stored as fat. That’s right, sugar turns into fat.
You get hangry often
This is a sign that you are having blood sugar swings and you need to slow your absorption of sugars. We should be able to feel hunger without getting irritable and CALMLY prepare or locate our next meal- lol. This is achieved by increasing the ratio of fat and protein to carbs in your meals. For example, the meal pictured below has a good blend of protein (chicken, egg), fat (egg, salad dressing), and carbs (lettuce, croutons). A large white pasta dish with a sugary sauce however, would be too high in carbs.
How to cut carbs and feel even more satisfied!
Choose low glycemic index foods most of the time- these foods are ranked based on how much they raise blood sugar compared to glucose or white bread (!)
- Low GI: 100% whole wheat bread/pasta, oatmeal (non-instant), sweet potatoes, brown rice, long-grain white rice, non-starchy vegetables
- High GI: table sugar, white bread/bagels/pasta, many cereals, instant oats, short grain white rice, white potatoes, tropical fruit (pineapple, melons)
Replace simple and refined carbs with non-starchy vegetables, fat, and protein. Complex carbs are preferable to simple/refined but should be limited (other than green vegetables which are freebies).
- Non-starchy vegetables: lettuces, kale, collards, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, ...
- Healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, butter, nuts and seeds, avocado, eggs
- Protein: poultry, meat, eggs, protein powder
- Complex carbs: green vegetables, oatmeal, whole grain bread/pasta, starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash, corn, peas), beans, lentils
Increase your fibre intake
- Fibre also slows the absorption of sugar, lowering a food’s glycemic index
- Healthy high fibre foods: apples, avocado, berries, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, brussels sprouts, peas, artichokes, broccoli, whole grains
If you really want to have a particular high GI food, try to add fat, fibre, and/or protein to slow its absorption.
P.S. Need more support in reducing your carb intake? Want to learn how to calculate your individual macronutrient (fat, protein, and carbohydrate) needs? Then, join my 30-Day Clean Eating Fat Loss Challenge today!
- Dr. Annie