Understanding carbohydrates

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There are three different types of carbohydrate: starch, fibre and sugar. All three are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body and you should take care to ensure they all feature in your diet. Here’s some useful advice on how to achieve this.

Sugar

We all know that too much sugar is bad for us and can cause weight gain and damage teeth. Whilst a small amount of sugar in your diet is totally fine, don’t try to cut it out completely.

The sugar in fruit and vegetables is completely natural and far better for you than a packet of sweets as they will provide many minerals and vitamins to help you stay healthy.

Fruit juice can be acidic so drinking too much of it can cause damage to your teeth. Remember that 150ml is a portion, so you could always try to dilute it with some water to reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming.

Sugar is also commonly found in products like chocolate, cake and desserts. Again, these are still fine to eat in moderation but check out our labels for advice on portion size.

Read our blog on our sugar reduction since we last reported on our sugar reduction progress in April 2018.

Starch

You should base your meals around starchy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes. The British Nutrition Foundation recommends that we eat 3-4 portions of carbohydrates per day. Try to choose wholegrain options where possible as they contain more fibre than white or refined starchy foods. Some examples of portion sizes are:

  • 2 handfuls of dried pasta shapes or rice (70g)
  • A baked potato about the size of your fist (220g)

For more information, see the portion size section below.

Fibre

In the UK, we’re not eating enough fibre in our diets. In 2015, the Government advised us to eat 30g of fibre per day but on average we eat 18g of fibre per day. Add more fibre to your diet slowly as doing it too quickly can cause stomach upsets and make it harder to keep up new, good habits. Here are some ways to get more fibre into your diet:

  • Choose wholegrain options where possible
    • A 70g serving of boiled wholegrain rice contains 2.1g compared to 0.35g fibre in 70g white rice
    • 100g of boiled wholewheat spaghetti contains 4.2g of fibre compared to 1.7g fibre in boiled white spaghetti
  • Go 50:50
    • Mix your rice with wholegrain rice
    • Mix pasta with wholegrain pasta
    • 1 slice of white bread with 1 slice of wholemeal bread
  • Include plenty of fruit and veg in your diet. Examples of sources of fibre include: dried apricots, avocado, blackberries, broccoli, curly kale, figs, parsnip, peas, prunes, sweet potato, sweetcorn
  • Try leaving the skin on your fruit and veg
  • Try leaving the skin on your potatoes – an average baked potato (180g) contains 4.7g of fibre
  • Add beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads – an 80g portion of chickpeas will provide 5.7g of fibre as well as 1 of your 5 a day
  • Mix bran cereal into your usual cornflakes
  • Snack on nuts, seeds, chopped fruit and veg such as carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, chopped peppers, celery sticks

Look out for source of fibre, high fibre claims on our products.

Carbohydrates contain fewer calories per gram than fat so it’s better to bulk your meals out with starchy carbohydrates that are higher in fibre if you’re watching your calorie intake.