Keeping a low-carbohydrate diet balanced

Senior dietitian Victoria Taylor explains how to keep your diet balanced and heart-healthy if you're limiting your carbohydrate intake. 

Cauliflower, avocado and a selection of nuts

There are many versions of low-carbohydrate diets, and they’re often adopted for reasons of weight loss. The most extreme, including the Atkins and Dukan diets, limit starchy carbohydrates like bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and even fruit, pulses and beans.

It is true that low-carbohydrate diets have also been linked to benefits such as controlling of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. But we still don’t know what long-term effects they have on your body. A low-carbohydrate diet is also hard to stick to and can leave you feeling tired, unable to concentrate, and possibly constipated, as many sources of dietary fibre are excluded. If you want to try it, talk to a dietitian first.

Wholegrains are higher in fibre so help you feel fuller for longer

Rather than trying to cut out all carbs, being more aware of the amount you are eating, and choosing healthier types, is a sensible and possibly more sustainable approach. Controlling your portion sizes and choosing wholegrain or high-fibre carbohydrates can help you control your weight and blood sugar levels. Brown rice, wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat and oats are wholegrains, which are higher in fibre so help you feel fuller for longer.

To manage your portion sizes, use a measuring spoon to serve yourself, or weigh out your portion before cooking.

Another good option is cutting back on free sugars: the type in juices and smoothies, sugar-sweetened drinks, jams, cakes, biscuits, sweets and puddings. These provide energy from the carbohydrate they contain, but little other nutrition.

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