With Keto Diets on the rise and the fear of carbohydrates growing rapidly, people are confused on what carbohydrates are considered to be important in a balanced diet.
Carbohydrates are a major fuel source that has been demonized. Carbohydrates alone, without consuming protein and fat, spike your blood sugar, known as glucose. This phenomenon is normal, as carbohydrates are easier to convert into glucose than fats and protein.
The glycemic index was created to rate the glycemic load of certain foods, AKA how much a single food item can spike your blood glucose on a scale of 1-100. White bread and table sugar score a 100, meaning it is digested rapidly and converted into pure glucose. This is also an unlikely situation, as adding fat and protein decrease the glycemic load of the meal. If you were to put peanut butter on the bread, the blood sugar spike would be much lower. This fact has been warped in the 2000’s to create a sense of fear around carbohydrates, pushing the assumption that eating carbohydrates will cause negative health implications, such as weight gain and diabetes.
This skewed view on one of the three major food groups has led to diet culture confusion, fad diet products, keto products, and even a fear of fruit. Carbohydrates contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals which are essential for human life- they are not to be feared, however it is important to choose proper sources, such as fruit and whole grains!
Although fruit has sugar, it does not have the same health implications as table sugar. Fruit comes alongside fiber, and vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption and boosts our immunity, while potassium is an important electrolyte that balances sodium. Sugar does not come alongside any health benefits, and is known as “nutrient void”, meaning, it provides no nutritional benefit. It is important to note that even though sugar is non-nutritive, we do not need to fear sugar. Even table sugar in low amounts would not cause negative health effects- the danger is in the dosage. The goal is not to fear calories, but to understand their place and balance in the diet.
You might be asking at this point, Julia, how much sugar is too much sugar? One Teaspoon of white sugar contains 16 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate/sugar. One Teaspoon of corn syrup, a concentrated form of table sugar, contains 20 calories and has 5 grams of carbohydrate. For reference, a soda has 11 teaspoons of sugar! Most people tend to over consume sugar in liquid forms, such as in their Starbucks drink, Wendy’s Frosty, Soda, Iced Tea, etc.
A lot of people are unaware of hidden sources of added sugar. Non sweetened beverages, like teas, contain no sugar. Other teas can contain just as much sugar as a soda, so make sure to check the nutrient label!
A good rule of thumb is to aim to have 10% or less of your total diet from sugar. This means, if you are consuming 2,000 calories a day, no more than 200 calories should come from sugar. Mathematically, this comes out to about 13.5 Teaspoons a day of sugar, or ~¼ cup of sugar in total. This may seem reasonable, however the average American consumes ~42.5 teaspoons of sugar a day!
Not sure which foods contain added sugar? Here are a few common names you will see on many ingredient lists!
- Fruit Juice concentrate
- Corn Syrup
- Brown sugar
Want a low sugar recipe that will provide you with fiber and protein to support your wellness goals? Try out this recipe adapted from Tasty:
Chickpea and Black Bean Salad: 8 servings
- 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ cup fresh mint, chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- feta cheese, crumbled, to taste
- Calories: 315
- Fat 9g
- Carbs 43g
- Fiber 15g
- Sugar 6g
- Protein 15g
- In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, black beans, red onion, cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, and fresh mint.
- In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Pour over the salad and toss to coat.
- Top with crumbled feta cheese.
Dietitian Recommendations: Julia recommends adding fiber into the diet slowly if you do not consume a lot of fiber. If your diet is void of whole grains, we recommend that you have half of the serving suggestion for 1 month before having the whole serving. This will save you from gastrointestinal bloating and cramping that is a result from adding in too much fiber too quickly.