Finally, a news article dissuading people from very low carbohydrate restricted diets based on high quality research and analysis. Historically, the BBC and its production of “informative” documentaries”, have been slated for it one sided opinions on carbohydrates. In no way would we advocate the general population to consume more carbohydrates as a general consensus. But it does raise important question of, what is a healthy balanced diet? How much carbohydrate is too much and what is right amount? And finally….Why do Dietitians keep promoting the eat well guide as the basis for a healthy diet?
So, what does the latest research tell us and how was it conducted?
In one study, they took 15,428 adults aged 45-64 years across 4 communities. Each completed a dietary questionnaire which allowed interpretation of their average energy intake. Fat, carbohydrate, protein and alcohol (for those whom consume it) in basic terms are fuel and all provide a form of energy. From the researchers analysis they were able to determine the percentage of energy provided from each of the macronutrient fuels. 25 years later they assessed for who out of the 15428 were still alive. They went one step further to compare their findings with similar studies internationally and were able to determine a percentage of 50–55% energy from carbohydrate was associated with the lowest risk of mortality (Seidelmann, et al., 2018).
Admittedly the above fuels are used in different ways and can assist and inhibit the body through individual functions. Carbohydrates are the preferred form of energy, with the body’s organs adapted to use their breakdown molecule “glucose” over other molecules. Of course the body is also adapted to deal with times of starvation, and can continue to run on the breakdown of protein and fats. This adaptive response is often a route exploited by many calorie restricted diets. The later two fuels have disadvantages over carbohydrates as their breakdown is not as quick and can lead to the build up of what could be perceived to be toxins. Another point would be that it’s difficult to only consume fat and protein in the diet, without consuming excesses in particular detrimental fats; “saturated fats”. Saturated fat although it continues to be studied in depth, continues to be stated as a risk factor of cardiovascular disease including stroke and heart disease. Could this be the one reason for the increased risks observed in the study?
The study also revealed the most beneficial diet to include 50-55% of energy but where proteins and fats were derived from plant based sources. There was a negative impact where fat and protein energy was derived more animal based sources. This is important as animal products are essentially higher in saturated fat.
Before you ask, why we don’t follow lower carbohydrate percentage diets with high percentage plant based fat and protein provision; the analysis was unable to extrapolate this as a finding due to the low numbers of participants following this dietary pattern. In addition, it is likely this type of dietary pattern would leave individual susceptible to vitamin deficiencies, with carbohydrates often carriers of fibre, iron, and vitamins and minerals.
Well, what should I eat you may ask, and how can I ensure I’m not over or under consume carbohydrates?.
This simple guide might not look appealing as some of the alternative diets out there, but resonates well when reflecting on the latest guidance
The Eatwell guide:- Not a plate but a daily and weekly guide to help you stay on track to the healthier you. (Source: Public Health England in association with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland)
How can we ensure we’re eating the right proportions and portions. Lets break it down ( All Values are approximate values based on McCance and Widdowson’s Food composition tables and FSA food portion sizes (Food Standars Agency, 2002; Foods Standards Agency, 2002)):
What is one portion of carbohydrate: Examples of what 1 portion. For a healthy individual the target is to aim for 8-10 portions per day.
|Food||Portion size (g)||Energy (kcal)||Carbohydrate (g)|
|Medium Slice brown bread||36g||80||15|
|3 dessert spoons of rice cooked (brown)||~30||107||24|
|2 baby new potatoes.||80||60||15|
Before we slate rice for having a higher energy provision, think about what you might add to the other options. Would it add calories?
Consuming brown or wholegrain varieties from this group provides a similar energy value, but benefits us by keeping us feeling fuller for longer and providing us with essential fibre. This not only keeps us “ flowing”, but has been to have long term health benefits and prevents unintentional eating through suppressing hunger signals.
Having 8-10 portions leads to a calorie intake of approx 656-820 calories. But, this doesn’t look like 50-50% of our energy intake if we’re aiming for 2000-2500 calories. Where does the other carbohydrate come from?
The Essentials: The tasty 5.
|Fruit and Vegetables||Portion size (g)||Energy (kcal)||Carbohydrate (g)|
|Apple ( Medium)||100g||47||12|
|Green beans (Medium)||90g||22||3|
Based on national recommendations, we’re advised to consume a minimum of 5 portions per day. This can provides us with an additional source of energy of where a small amount comes from carbohydrate. In fact, evidence of the health benefits from fruits and vegetables, they’re more significant when consuming 7 or more portions, so aim to consume these in abundance.
Dairy and alternatives: Not only a source of calcium but a vital source of energy, protein and additional carbohydrate.
|Dairy and alternatives||Portion size||Energy (kcal)||Carbohydrate (g)|
|Semi Skimmed milk||200ml||92||9|
|Plain Low Fat Yogurt||150g||84||10.6|
|Small piece of Cheddar Cheese||30g||139||0.1|
General guidance is to consume 3 portion of dairy/dairy alternative to ensure we’re meeting our bones needs for calcium. Some people may require more.
To end with, where’s the overly publicised essential protein coming from? Although there is a massive concentration on the importance on protein, a health adult in their prime does not require excessive amounts. Aiming for 0.8g-1.0g /kg for a healthy weighted active adult in their prime will be more than sufficient to meet their needs. Consuming 2-3 portion will allow you to achieve this. Here’s some examples to get you started.
|Protein rich Foods||Portion size (g)||Energy (kcal)||Fat (g)||Carbohydrate (g)||Protein
|1 small lean skinless chicken breast frilled||100g||148||2.4||0||32|
|1 pack of playing card sized lean steak grilled||110g||129||6.5||0||34|
|4 dessert spoons /1/2 tin of chickpeas boiled||140g||170||4||25||30|
Before you say it, yes one portion of chickpeas does have more calories. However, ask yourself this; would you be satisfied with one small piece of grilled steak? Would you cook the steak by grilling it allowing fat to flow away from the meat? What would you add to it? What would you serve it with and how much of the other accompaniments would be need to fill yourself up. Of course it can be done, but question whether this is the case for you?
Chickpeas here do provide us with more energy, but due to bulky portion size, it is likely to stop us from helping ourselves to a larger portion of starchy carbohydrate, allowing us to keep within the moderation guidelines the eat well guide preaches. It also provides a large amount of fibre and its fat would be in the form of unsaturated fat. In addition, it provides us with the non animal source of protein energy the study talked about as well as an additional source of carbohydrate; helping us to gain the ideal 50-55% of energy from carbohydrate
So what have we learned? Ultimately, carbohydrates are not the demon. It’s how we space them out, the form in which we consume them and what else we’re consuming with them. We cannot look at diet by merely looking at one section, as life, energy intake and our health is a finely tuned balance. Quite often it’s not the basic food, which takes people off track, but what we add to our food. Everything part from water has some form of nutritional provision. Remember that next time you’re dressing your salad.
Our intention is not to provide you with an exact guidance on what will work for you. However, if you’re as the eat well guide and the suggested portion sizes have intended; a healthy adult in your prime; taking part in 150 minutes of moderate intense activity and keeping up with 10000 steps on a daily basis, as well as already being a healthy weight; the above will keep you on track to healthy future.
Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on our first post. Hope it helps to alleviate the generalise myths and inspires you to a healthier you. For further help and guidance with any of your diet based health concerns, visit www.mydietpros.co.uk, to see how we can help shape your future.
Food Standars Agency. (2002). McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods (Sixth Summary Edition ed.). Cambridge: Roydal Society of Chemisty.
Foods Standards Agency. (2002). Food Portion Sizes. London: TSO.
Seidelmann, S. B., Claggett, B., Cheng, S., Henglin, M., Shah, A., Steffen, L. M., et al. (2018). Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health .