Manage your carbohydrate intake

by By Hector Tan (htan@sph.com.sg)
published on 22 June 2016

Eating right is essential if you want to manage your weight and stay in shape.

While moderating the amount of carbohydrates you eat is important when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, it should not be your only consideration.

A study published last April called “Changes in intake of protein foods, carbohydrate amount and quality, and long-term weight change: Results from 3 prospective cohorts” conducted by researchers at Tufts University on 120,000 people across 16 years, found that the combinations of foods a person eats, rather than how low-fat or low-carbohydrate the foods are, make a difference to his or her weight.

Other factors that come into play include when you eat such foods, and whether the portions are appropriate for your body’s needs, said Ms Goh Peck Yi, a nutritionist.

Ms Goh said: “Most people eat three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. The key to eating right is to monitor how your body responds to the amount of carbohydrates you eat throughout the day.”

Here are some ways to help you manage the amount of carbohydrates that you take.

1. EAT NATURAL

Where possible, avoid processed foods.

Ms Goh said: “Processed foods can contain bad forms of carbohydrates that are high in salt and oil. If you want to improve your health, get your carbohydrates from natural starch sources like potatoes, brown rice and yam. If you like bread, go for wholemeal or muesli. The extra fibre will help to regulate your digestion and the release of sugars.”

2. WATCH YOUR PORTIONS

You may want to moderate the amount of carbohydrates you eat, since excess carbohydrates that are not used as energy for your body will be converted to fats.

Ms Goh said: “Having a meal that is high in carbohydrates can result in energy spikes and make you feel bloated. Help your body to better digest the carbohydrates that you have taken by pairing your rice or noodles with fibre or certain types of protein. Doing so eases the stress on your digestive system, and helps you to manage your blood glucose and energy levels at the same time.”

One way to do this is to refer to My Healthy Plate, a tool designed by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) that guides people on how they should portion their meals according to the various food groups. For instance, one’s plate should comprise 50 per cent vegetables (fibre), 25 per cent meat or dairy (protein), and 25 per cent of rice, noodles or bread (carbohydrates).

3. HAVE WELL-BALANCED MEALS

Don’t omit other nutrients in your diet.

Researchers involved in the study conducted by Tufts University found that individuals who ate low-fat dairy products often took more carbohydrate-rich foods to compensate for the lower amount of calories in low-fat foods.

This may suggest that when people consume more low-fat dairy products, they may tend to

increase their consumption of carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain.

Ms Goh said: “There are many quick-fix weight management solutions available that can help you stay in shape. But that does not mean you should not include nutrients from the basic food groups in your diet. Managing your weight boils down to exercise and eating sensibly.”

It is best to ensure that you have a healthy variety of fats, fibre, and carbohydrates at every meal.

Ms Goh said: “Some foods, like brown rice, help to prevent weight gain. High-fat foods can be unhealthy when eaten excessively. But they can be beneficial to weight management too, when they are eaten in moderation and with other types of food.

“Don’t forget protein-rich foods like fish, nuts, and yogurt. These enable your body to maximise the nutritional benefits of the fats, fibre and carbohydrates that you take.”

This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult medical

or healthcare professionals for advice on health-related matters.