How to Eat Less Carbs – The Right Way

Lately, a lot of attention has been focused on the fact that many of us should eat less carbs.

So when we ask ourselves “how to eat less carbs” the question is too broad. In fact, the category carbohydrates includes a wide spectrum of foods. Some of which are really important for our health. And some of which can compromise it.

 

We should focus on the category of foods, not nutrients. Even if as scientists and researchers it may be a helpful to study food through nutrients. It’s not a helpful way to communicate about food.

Why Do We Think Carbs Are Bad


Let’s see how focusing on nutrients rather than food can get us confused and potentially eating a diet that’s dangerous to our health.

There are tonnes of popular diet trends that encourage us to drastically reduce the carbohydrates in our diet. Even to the point of limiting our intake of fresh fruit.

how-to-eat-less-carbs
Dieting usually has little research behind it and never really works.

At the same time, some of these low-carb diets suggest that we can eat protein and fats freelyBut a diet that’s very high in animal protein and contains no whole grain or not enough fruits and vegetables could leave us with serious problems in the long run.

All nutrients are not created equal especially when it comes to their effect on our health. Shifting our focus from nutrients to foods can help us develop better eating habits that will support our long term health.

 

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs


There are carbs that we should avoid. And carbs that we should definitely include in our diet.

Most people think of bread and pasta when talking of carbohydrates. However, you can find carbs in dairy products, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, sugary foods and sweets. (Source: HealthLine)

Dietary carbohydrates are combinations fiber, starch and sugar units.

We divide carbs in 2 main groups: simple and complex carbohydrates.

 

Simple carbohydrates are sugar. They can be monosaccharides, or single sugar units like glucose and fructose. As well as the disaccharides, or two-sugar units like sucrose, or table sugar.

This is the group of carbs that we should avoid.

 

Examples of simple, refined carbohydrates: white bread, regular pasta, any type of processed, packaged food – cookies, cakes, soda and sugary drinks, baked goodies, juice concentrates, cereals, etc.

simple-carbohydrates
Avoid simple, refined carbs.

 

Complex carbohydrates, or polysaccharides, include the dietary starches that our body can break down and digest, and also the indigestible polysaccharides that make up dietary fiber – poo material.

During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down and converted to glucose. Glucose can then be metabolized by the body to produce usable energy in the form of ATP. 

 

Fiber helps with better digestion and regular pooping.

 

Whole grains like brown rice and rolled oats are carbohydrates that provide our bodies with a usable source of energy and bound together in that very same food is a significant amount of fiber, which slows the release of glucose from that food into the bloodstream. This is a group of carbs that is good for us.

 

Examples of complex carbs rich in fiber: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains.

Examples of complex carbs rich in starch: whole wheat bread, cereal, corn, oats, peas, rice.

complex-carbohydrates
Complex carbs are essential to include in your diet.

Gycemic Index


The glycemic index of food is the measure of the speed at which glucose is released into the blood stream after it’s digestedA whole grain like brown rice or quinoa will result in a slower release of glucose and a more muted insulin response.

 

On the other hand, food that’s high in refined carbohydrates, like white bread or soda, will lead to a more rapid release of glucose into the bloodAnd in response to this, the body releases a large amount of insulin, the hormone in our bodies that lowers blood sugar.


Because of spike of glucose and insulin lead to less stable blood sugar levels, eating foods that are refined, especially highly processed carbohydrates, can result in an earlier return of hunger and a tendency to overeat.

 

We tend to overeat and be hungry again sooner when we eat simple or refined carbohydrates.

 

The glycemic index of food is lower when the food contains fiber or when it’s eaten in combination with protein foods or foods containing some dietary fat.

For people who are struggling to manage their weight, or their blood sugar levels, eating foods that have a low glycemic index is especially important, but choosing low glycemic foods is generally a good idea for all us.

How to Limit Carbs in Everyday


We tend to start by thinking about the protein when we’re planning a meal. If we can think of the vegetables as the feature then the entire meal will likely end up being healthier. 

The plate itself should consist of about one half plant based food, ideally with a mix of different colored vegetables.

healthy-plate
Example of a balanced plate.

Different colored vegetables contain different micro nutrients. So, eating a variety of them maximizes our nutrient coverage. In general, eating a variety of foods is also beneficial because it minimizes the chances of getting sick from potential contaminants in any one food.

 

The remaining one half of the plate should be equally divided into whole grains and protein rich foods (in my case that’s plants as well).

Most of the time the best drink to quench thirst and keep us hydrated and healthy is plain, clean water. The human body is made up of more than 50% water so don’t forget to replace it during mealtime.

 

Drinking water before each meal may even be helpful for weight management.


 

Eat Complex Carbs, Avoid Simple Carbs


So when we talk about dietary carbohydrates we’re actually talking about a very broad family of foods. Some that can be harmful to our long term health, such as simple carbohydrates that raise insulin levels. And some that can support it, like complex carbohydrates with low and slow insulin spikes. 

Learning how to choose the right foods within each nutrient category is one of the keys to long term success.


The variations are endless yet very important for our well being. Don’t diet because it never works on a long run. Get into the habit of creating a healthy plate, sit down for mealtimes, and take time to enjoy meals.

 

 

I hope you found the information that is useful to you. If you have any questions, want to share your experience or just chat on this topic, write a comment below. I’d love to hear your point of view!

Till next time,

Katya

19 thoughts on “How to Eat Less Carbs – The Right Way”

  1. This was a good deal of information to read through. But the simplicity with the way you delivered this was very helpful. I actually understood everything you were talking about.

    I had no idea about the various type of carbs and why they are beneficial or not beneficial.

    Do you have an article on dietary or meal planning?

    I am looking for suggestions for each type of meal. For instance, what makes up a balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner? 

    This article has a lot of good tips. I am going to have a look around at some of your other articles as well.

    Thanks for sharing. 

    Reply
    • Hi Scott, I will write about it shortly – I’m already working on it so keep in touch and I’ll update my reply once it’s published.

      Talk to you soon,

      Katya

      Reply
  2. Thanks for reminding me that shifting our focus from nutrient to foods actually helps in the development of a better eating habits that will support our long-term health. Almost every food we eat contains carbohydrate and that is why it is necessary we desist from the daily consumption of artificial carbohydrates such as disacharides and artificial sweeteners in order to escape the risk of diabetes, stroke and cancer resulting from the intake or consumption of artificial sweeteners which most of them can lead to cancer.The consumption of complex carbohydrate with the combination of fruits and vegetables boosts the immune system and resistance to diseases and infection as fruits and vegetables contains petrochemicals and antioxidants which fight against diseases. In conclusion, simple carbohydrate and disacharides should be avoided. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Kenechi, yes to keep it simple, we should avoid processed, man-tweeked carbs and eat more unprocessed ones. Simple carbs are easy to digest but this is not a good for us. With simple carbs our body only gets quick energy, sugar and quick hunger. While complex carbs are more difficult to digest, resulting in slower energy, less sugar and slower return of hunger.

      Reply
  3. I recently kept a detailed food diary, first time in five years, and was surprised to find that the percentage of carbs in my diet had dropped from around 55% to closer to 40%.  I hadn’t been trying to limit carbs, but I think as I added more nuts and the like to my diet, the additional fat (now just under 40%) kind of crowded out the carbs.

    The other surprise was that the percentage of sugar is now pushing 20% of my total calories whereas it had been closer to 10% five years ago. It’s almost as if my limiting carbs in general made me emphasize the simple carbs in my diet.  You are right, sugar is everywhere. Ketchup is surprisingly high in sugar. This is something I clearly have to work on, as I apparently had not been paying nearly as much attention to my diet as I had thought!

    Reply
  4. Thank you so much for sharing all with us, I only wish for more.

    Oxygen and Carbon are two forms that we combine to create energy. Carbohydrates are essential, not protein that’s not essential.Sugar is carbon. We need carbon. The best sugar for our cells is simple sugar from fruit.Fruit does not require insulin to be metabolized (fructose from whole fruit is directly metabolized).

    Fat is the culprit which prevents sugar metabolism & creates insulin resistance.

    Reply
    • Hi Leo, I agree and disagree with you. I agree the best sugar is the one from fruits. However I do not agree fat is the culprit..at least not that generalised. Trans-fat yes, they are man-made and unhealthy in 100%, but there is also healthy fat which our body needs to operate..Avocado is fruit rich in fat. Protein and fat are long-term energy and building blocks of our bodies and have as much importance as sugar, as long as we eat them in the right way.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  5.  Thanks for this post educative post, for decades we’ve been told that fat is detrimental to our health. Meanwhile low-fat “diet” products, often full of sugar, have flooded supermarket shelves. This has most likely been a major mistake, that coincided with the start of the obesity epidemic. I will say the best way to eat less is to strictly be on keto diet. 

    Reply
    • Hi Seun, there are couple of similar long-term diets that people find beneficial such as keto or LCHF. I tried both and did the job, but after a while I felt like I should go back to normal eating, carbs included. But yes, I agree with you to fight obesity and to loose weight, Keto and LCHF works wonders.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  6. This is brilliant information and I am glad that I found it! you are right about diets not working (I know from experience). The main reason is most of them are too drastic and require you to cut out entire food groups which is not sustainable for long enough to work (for most people anyway)

    Many diets call carbs the bad guys who should be avoided at all costs, but you have reminded us that things are not so simple. I know from experience that trying to cut out carbs completely was very difficult (for me at least!). I have now come to eat a more balanced and healthy diet which includes the low GI complex carbs you mentioned.

    These foods really do keep you fuller for longer and you never feel an energy spike and drop from eating them (the same rollercoaster energy spike you get from refined sugar.)

    I am not sure if it is true or not but apparently mixing fibre with water causes the fibre to form a sort of gel inside the body that takes longer to digest and keeps you fuller. Do you know if this is true?

    Thanks for sharing this great advice!

    Reply
    • Hi Renton, I have heard of fibers “gelling” the body. I think we should look deeper into fiber, because again there are fiber that have been processed, like cereals, granola. And fibers that are unprocessed, for example basic oats. I know for unprocessed basic oats, that it is better to soak then in water the night before because of that gel. Oat is basicaly a grain that should sprout. Soaking it a night before unlocks the “let’s do this” nutrients. Milk may also play a role in “gelling” the body – you should try and only consume unhomogenized milk because once the milk is homogenized it looses it’s milk properties and it’s nothing more than a white liquid that your body cannot use.

      I hope this answers your question,

      Katya

      Reply
  7. Hey there Katya,

    I will start of by saying that I’ve been actively exercising for over a year now and I love it! I feel much better and look better as well. However, exercising is only one part of being & feeling healthy. There is other part that is as crucial, or I would even go as far as saying more important than working out, and that would be- eating healthy. Unfortunately I didn’t dedicate so much time & effort into creating a healthy and well balanced diet as I did into exercising, although for the past few months I was improving by adding more fruits and vegetables into my daily diet. After reading Your article I’ve realized that now is a perfect time to start improving my diet and the overall quality of my life. It truly motivated me to do so! I know that the biggest issue with my diet is having way too much unhealthy carbs, or simple carbohydrates. I eat a lot of white bread, pasta, cookies and sugary drinks. I always wondered how these simple carbohydrates work and why are they so unhealthy, and this article did an amazing job of explaining it. Now I am fully aware that these so called bad carbs release the glucose into the blood system very quickly after it’s digested, which makes the body release the large amount of insulin to lower that blood sugar level, and such spikes in insulin and glucose ultimately results in less stable blood sugar level. And on top of this, like You’ve explained eating simple carbs have the ability to cause earlier return of hunger, which explains why people who consume a lot of bad carbs tend to overeat. I can definitely feel it for myself when I consume refined carbohydrates. Thank You Katya for such informative and helpful article, I’ve really enjoyed reading it and learning a lot of new things today. Now I feel as motivated as never to cut out unhealthy carbs from my daily diet as much as possible and replace them with healthy ones, therefore improving the overall quality of my health and life in general! Keep up the good work 😉

    Reply
    • Hi Evald, I’m really really pleased to hear I could help you and thank you for leaving your comment – it gives me new drive 🙂

      Everybody loves eating carbs, they taste good – specially the simple ones. Now, if you enjoy eating bread, pasta, cookies and sugary drinks, what you can do is: instead of white bread buy a wholegrain one, same goes for pasta. If you want to eat cookies, bake them at home – you’ll probably use less sugar and better ingredients than the one bought. As for sugary drinks, maybe limit then for weekends only?

      Hope this makes your switch easier,

      Katya

      Reply
  8. Hello, thank you for the excellent article. I chance upon it and read with much interest. You see in the cafeteria where I take my lunch, assorted vegetables come first before carbs and then fish or meat follows. By the time you get to the carbs and meat, your plate is almost filled. I now understand why. It is a strategy to make us eat more vegetables to stay healthy.

    It is true that all vegetables are full of nutrients. But please, a question. Are colors in vegetables play any significant role?

    Reply
    • Smart cafeteria, I love their way of assorting a lunch! Vegetables and fruits are in general the healthiest option you can choose – because they’re nutritious, unprocessed and fresh. I strongly believe that produce is the key to well-being..our body needs nutrients, vitamins, minerals etc. to function on a daily basis and vegetables gives us this. No cookie does that.

      To answer your question about color in veggies; the role it plays is to indicate which micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) you can find in it. There are 3 main pigments in veggies: orange/yellow that is caused by carotenoids, purple, blue and red caused by flavonoids and green caused by chlorophyll. 

      To take things further; each of these 3 pigments has different roles in the body. Some indicate high vitamin C levels (carotenoids), while others are good antioxidants (flavonoids). Chlorophyll usually indicates high iron content. 

      If you have any questions, just ask away 🙂

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  9. Eating too much of carbohydrates is not good at all. After a short period of time, we will be hungry again. 

    Actually, carbs are the worst enemies for those who want to lose weight or just to live a healthy lifestyle. 

    As a housewife and mother of two kids, I am forced to cook twice a day. Well-balanced dish will help you to be an active whole day. I used to eat a lot of pasta and white bread with butter and honey you can gain so much weight and still will be hungry. Luckily somehow I have changed my lifestyle LOL

    Thank you for sharing this post!

    Reply
    • Children make you do things 🙂 I’m happy to hear you switched to healthy food and that your family is growing healthy!

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply

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