Carbohydrates (bread, potato, rice and pasta)

Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for your body

The two main types of carbohydrate are starchy foods (like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice) and sugars. Sugars are found naturally in fruit and vegetables like apples and carrots and are often added to products for a sweeter taste. All carbohydrates, whether from starchy potatoes or from a bar of chocolate turn into the body’s preferred source of fuel, glucose.

A third type of carbohydrate is fibre (see fibre section).

How much starchy carbohydrate should I eat?

The amount you eat will depend on your age, sex, state of health and how much exercise you take. However you should plan to make starchy carbohydrates the basis of all your meals.

  • Starchy carbohydrates have 4 kcal of energy per gram (less than half the calories of fat) and fibre has 2 kcal of energy per gram. Try to reduce the fatty parts of your meal and increase the amount of vegetables on your plate.
  • Watch how much starchy carbohydrate you eat. They are turned into sugars in the body and stored as fat if your body doesn’t use the energy up! Watch the size of your portions!

What is a Glycemic Index (GI)?

Some supermarkets are starting to label foods with their GI level. This is a measure of how quickly the energy is released from carbohydrates into the bloodstream.

  • A high GI measure (70 – 100) means that the energy is released quickly and causes the blood sugar levels to increase. A low GI measure (less than 55) means energy is released more slowly and allows for a more sustained availability of energy for the body.
  • Choosing foods with a low to medium GI will help to avoid highs and lows of sugar levels in the body and therefore support a feeling of being sustained for longer.

How much sugar should I eat?

As a guide, an average adult female should eat no more than 90g of sugars a day, but this can be balanced out over your meals and snacks. As an example, two chocolate Digestives would contain about 10g of sugars.

How can I look after my health and still enjoy a treat?

The important thing is to eat a variety of different foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables and watch that portions don’t creep up in size.

  • Keeping active in some way is also important (see the keep active section on this site.)