Carbs have gotten a bad rap in the past. Why? Because all carbs, both complex and simple, are often times grouped in the same category. Simple carbs are composed of simple-to-digest, basic sugars with little real value for our bodies. The higher in sugar and lower in fiber, the worse the carbohydrate is for us.
Fruits and vegetables are surprisingly categorized as simple carbohydrates because they are still composed of basic sugars, although they are drastically different from other foods in the category, like cookies and cakes. The fiber in fruits and vegetables changes the way that the body processes these sugars and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates have a longer series of sugars that take the body more time to break down. They generally have a lower glycemic load, which means that lower amounts of sugars will be released at a more consistent rate to keep us going throughout the day.
So, now that you know the different types of carbohydrates, let’s figure out how to determine the amount of carbohydrates that’s best for you!
1. Consider any health concerns
Some of us may start a low carb diet due to health issues including candidiasis, gut dysbiosis, hypoglycemia, or even Alzheimer’s. The issue is that they often continue this diet even when they have been healed of their health concern. Other clients worry that carbs are not helpful in the weight-loss department.
A severely carb-restricted diet can affect hormone levels. Going extremely ‘low-carb’ distorts hormone levels, which leads to a resistance to weight-loss, fatigue, poor mood and cognition, and altered menstrual cycles. This can typically be rectified with the addition of even small amounts of natural, unprocessed carbs added back into the diet. Additionally, diets with low carbohydrate intake can reduce levels of the active thyroid hormone triiodothyronine, often leading to fatigue, pain, depression and unexplained weight gain.
A very low carb diet can lead to gut dysbiosis and a reduction in the diversity of the gut flora. When carbs are avoided, important prebiotics are also avoided (i.e. food for your gut flora) like soluble fiber and resistant starch. These prebiotics are essential for promoting the growth of beneficial gut flora.
2. Consider activity level and carb (in)tolerance
Carb intake is highly individual and depends on how active you are, what type of exercise you are performing and how ‘tolerant’ you are to carbohydrates. You may need to eat a little more carbohydrates from natural, whole, unprocessed sources if:
- You are extremely active
- You perform high-intensity exercise such as CrossFit or intensive circuit training
- You are having trouble recovering from workouts
- You have an underactive thyroid
- You have adrenal fatigue
- You are chronically fatigued
- You lose your period or are having irregular cycles
- You are pregnant and breastfeeding
Here is a general guideline that I use (courtesy of Chris Kresser):
If you have multiple conditions that place you in seemingly opposite carbohydrate levels, I suggest working with a practitioner to help you craft a diet that will suit you best.
Once carb intake has been determined, experimentation is key. Sometimes people feel great consuming the designated amount of carbs suggested. Other times, it is best to play around with carb intake to determine the amount that you feel your best on. If you’re feeling sluggish and are having trouble with workouts, perhaps your carb intake is too low.
If you’ve found yourself identifying with any of the aforementioned issues, you may be in need of a macronutrient adjustment in your diet. The goal of this post is to get you to start figuring out what’s right for you. A low-carb or high-carb intake isn’t necessarily the answer – you just need to do what works best for you! There’s a huge spectrum of carbohydrate intake; it’s just a matter of finding where you should lie on it.
Whenever I’m craving carbs, I opt for a serving of sweet potato chips, with a side of guac (of course!), to help stabilize the release of sugar in your bloodstream. The best thing about them is that I know exactly what goes in them and they leave my home smelling amazing! It’s such a treat to feel good about snacking on nutritious chips!
You can also change up the flavour by using different spices such as cinnamon, to sweeten, or cayenne to spice it up!
- 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
- 2 tbsp. oil (I use either coconut or grape seed)
- Sprinkling of salt or other spices (cinnamon, cayenne, basil, etc.)
How to Make:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Thinly slice sweet potatoes; a mandolin is easiest to use but if you don’t have one, you can carefully/uniformly slice the sweet potatoes into 1/8 inch pieces
- Toss with oil and spices
- Lay them out on baking trays so that they aren’t stacked on top of each other
- Set the timer on your oven for 15 minutes and flip the potatoes when the timer goes off
- Bake them for another 10-15 minutes until ready; they tend to harden a bit more when taken out of the oven so you can let them cool on a baking rack until hardened. If they aren’t ready, keep them in the oven and keep a close eye on them as some chips have the tendency to burn quicker than others
- Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days