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  • Writer's pictureeliannigaio

Which Carbs we Shouldn't Count as Calories and Which Ones we Should Consider and Count as calories?

Carbohydrates - Part 7

In this series of articles, I am talking about:

Part 1 - How to calculate the basal metabolic rate, and how a restrictive diet actually might not help lose weight.

Part 2 - How to estimate our daily calorie intake, an estimative of the number of calories we should daily consume in order to maintain optimal energy levels and vitality. 

Part 3 - Macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins). And why should we pay attention to macronutrients not calories. 

Part 4 – Carbohydrate - How to estimate the right amount of carbs for us?

Part 5 – Carbohydrate – How to transform your ideal carbohydrate percentage into the right amount of carbohydrate in your plate, and alcoholic beverages and their calories.

Part 6 - How to best select the carbohydrates in our diet and more.

In this article, I am going to talk about which carbohydrates we shouldn't count as calories and which ones we should consider and count as calories in our daily diet, and more.

How do we consider the calories in our carbs?

Despite of the bad reputation, carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, and serve as our body main fuel source. And as we saw in the last article (here), a diet of grain-free whole foods with carbohydrate from cellular tubers, vegetables, leaves, and fruits, all loaded with fibers, can produce a gastrointestinal microbiota consistent with our evolutionary condition. (1. 2)

Unquestionably, the benefits of a diet rich in high quality carbohydrates filled with fibers and nutrients goes far behind supporting the health of our digestive tract, and are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune problems, protect against obesity, diabetes, inflammatory conditions, Alzheimer’s, etc. (3, 4, 5)

However, remember that even the cellular carbs (here) are not created equal, and some of them directly affect our glucose levels more than others. In reality, plants store their energy as starch and some are rich in starch/energy, while others have a lower proportion of starch. Known as starchy and non-starchy vegetables/plants. (6, 7)

In order to better control our blood sugar levels, weight gain, and a myriad of health issues, we must understand how to wisely count the calories from starchy plants in our diet

Then, consider the starch plants in your plate as calories from carbohydrates. Or, these foods are the ones that count as carbohydrates in our daily caloric index (here). Also, eat as much as you want from the non-starchy plants because these foods have very few calories, and have no effects in our blood sugar levels (see more below).

Starchy versus non-starchy

Starchy vegetableshave very high density of carbohydrates and they provide us with their energy or calories and might produce some effects in our blood sugar levels.

- In this category are included vegetables like pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, yams, potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, cassava, tubers plantain, fruits in general, etc. But also, all grains such beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, hummus, rice, corn, etc., if you still include grains in your diet. (8, 9, 10, 11)

Non-starchy vegetables, with low density of starch with little or no calories and will help to keep blood sugar levels stable.

- In this category are included cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, bok choy, cabbage, kale and all greens, celery, eggplant, onion, garlic, cucumber, peppers, leeks, mushrooms, herbs and spices, asparagus, artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes, turnips, chayote, chicory, Chinese cabbage, heart of palms, bamboo shoots, leek, greens, mustard, dandelion, lettuce, jicama, rutabaga, etc.

Important to remember that both, the starchy and the non-starchy vegetables are loaded with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibers. All part of a health meal plan used to prevent chronic health conditions.

Why shouldn’t we count the non-starchy vegetables in our plates as calories from carbohydrates?

In general, it is not necessary to count the calories from non-starchy carbohydrates and red fruits in our daily diet. These foods require a lot of cellular energy in their digestion, and we spend more calories in their digestion process than we gain calories from them. However, they are essential to our health as they provide us micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibers, etc.

And as we saw in the last article (here), fibers have several benefits to our health, as:

1- Satiate us easily an they are emotionally satisfying foods, essential to the functioning of the intestine

2- Help in the modulation of the digestive process, controlling the transit time of food and contribute to the control of circulating levels of glucose and lipids

3- Acting as food sources for bacterial flora, particularly (but not restricted) to the bacteria that live in the large intestine

Why should we consider and count the starchy vegetables as calories from carbohydrates?

On the other hand, it is essential to count the calories of the starchy carbohydrates in our diet, as these foods are dense in calories and provide us with their energy. Also, these friendly foods are rich sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, carotenoids, sulfur compounds, glucosinolate, etc. All part of a balanced diet.

As result, it is very important to remember that we should not eliminate the starchy plants from our diets as it would restrict the carbohydrates that provide us with energy and also, feed our intestinal flora.

So, according to your daily caloric need (here), include in your plate a satisfactory quantity of these healthy starchy plants in a very diversified way. This will ensure a diverse intestinal microbiota, compatible with our evolutionary condition and that offers us protection against various chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc., since these are essential foods to good health and well-being. (12, 13, 14)

Emphasize on the quality of the carbohydrate you consume

Be extremely careful with the quality of your food because the quality of our calories is more important than the quantity of the calories we eat daily. And, countless scientific studies shown that metabolic diseases and obesity are not related to the quantity, but to the quality of the carbohydrates in our diet. (15, 16)

For this reason, whatever percentage of carbohydrates you chose in your diet (here), try to feed yourself, as much as possible, with cellular carbohydrates, limiting the starchy plants to your daily caloric index, and eating the non-starch carbohydrates as wanted. Also, look for local, organic, as fresh as possible, diverse produces and nutrient-rich foods.

I hope this information was helpful to you.

In the next article, I continue with carbohydrates.

Please leave your comment or question at the link below.

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