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What does low carb mean?

12th March 2018 by Jess

Ever heard the phrase "I'm cutting out carbs"? Our nutritionist Jess talks us through the low carb diet. This blog post will educate you on ‘good carbs’, perhaps 'not so positive carbs’ and how much is just the right amount so you can enjoy your carbs with the utmost confidence that there’s a rightful place for them in your diet.

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Carbohydrates have had such a tough few years. Carbs have been demonised as making us fat based on the hypothesis that carbs spike or elevate insulin and insulin as the ‘fat storage hormone’ make us store calories as fat. It’s a nice hypothesis, with just the right amount of science to sound scientific enough for popular press and the million headlines, sadly it’s incorrect.

Jess, graze nutritionist
Ele tasting salad wrap

Why do we need carbs?

Carbohydrates are primarily a source of immediate energy for all of your body’s cells. Carbohydrates also cause a release of insulin, which is a hormone produced by our pancreas. A larger insulin response can be beneficial at certain times (like after an intense workout) and not so beneficial at certain times (like before bed).

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What is low carb?

People following a low carb diet will be aiming between 30-225g depending on the intensity of their carb-limiting but 'low carb' is scientifically anything below the Daily Reference Intake (DRI), which for Carbs, it's 260g.

Moderate carbohydrate: 130 to 225g of carbs per day
Low carbohydrate: under 130g of carbs
Very low carbohydrate: under 30g of carbs

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jess notes

It is calories and sugar, not carbs, that really matter in terms of fat loss, whichever dietary strategy helps you achieve this is the right one for you whether that’s low carb, high carb or somewhere in between. The most important thing to consider is your health and ensuring your food options are nutrient dense, you enjoy your foods and it’s sustainable.

Jess, graze nutritionist

References

  1. ‘Calorie for Calorie, Dietary Fat Restriction Results in More Body Fat Loss than Carbohydrate Restriction in People with Obesity’, Hall et al, 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26278052
  2. ‘Energy expenditure and body composition changes after an isocaloric ketogenic diet in overweight and obese men’, Hall et al, 2016 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/07/05/ajcn.116.133561.abstract
  3. Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:30-42.
  4. Wu H, Dwyer KM, Fan Z, Shircore A, Fan J, Dwyer JH. Dietary fiber and progression of atherosclerosis: the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:1085-1091.
  5. Berkow SE & Barnard N. Vegetarian diets and weight status. Nutr Rev 2006;64:175-188.
  6. Wylie-Rosett J, Segal-Isaacson CJ, Segal-Isaacson A. Carbohydrates and increases in obesity: does the type of carbohydrate make a difference? Obes Res 2004;12 Suppl 2:124S-129S.
  7. Martinez ME, McPherson RS, Levin B, Glober GA. A case-control study of dietary intake and other lifestyle risk factors for hyperplastic polyps. Gastroenterology 1997;113:423-429.
  8. Martinez ME, McPherson RS, Annegers JF, Levin B. Association of diet and colorectal adenomatous polyps: dietary fiber, calcium, and total fat. Epidemiology 1996;7:264-268.
  9. Peters U, Sinha R, Chatterjee N, et al. Dietary fibre and colorectal adenoma in a colorectal cancer early detection programme. Lancet 2003;361:1491-1495.
  10. McKeown-Eyssen GE, Bright-See E, Bruce WR, et al. A randomized trial of a low fat high fibre diet in the recurrence of colorectal polyps. Toronto Polyp Prevention Group. J Clin Epidemiol 1994;47:525-536.
  11. Macrae F. Wheat bran fiber and development of adenomatous polyps: evidence from randomized, controlled clinical trials. Am J Med 1999;106:38S-42S.
  12. Park Y, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer: a pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies. JAMA 2005;294:2849-2857.
  13. Tse PW, Leung SS, Chan T, Sien A, Chan AK. Dietary fibre intake and constipation in children with severe developmental disabilities. J Paediatr Child Health 2000;36:236-239.
  14. Howard LV, West D, Ossip-Klein DJ. Chronic constipation management for institutionalized older adults. Geriatr Nurs 2000;21:78-82.
  15. Griffenberg L, Morris M, Atkinson N, Levenback C. The effect of dietary fiber on bowel function following radical hysterectomy: a randomized trial. Gynecol Oncol 1997;66:417-424.
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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to her website at jessntom.com for even more.

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