What Are Carbohydrates?

According to their molecule structure and at the most basic level, carbohydrates are sugar.

Sugar can be classified as monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides. 

A monosaccharide is a single sugar molecule made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Examples of these are glucose and fructose.

Disaccharides are two sugar molecules linked together like sucrose and lactose. Two examples of these are table sugar and milk sugar. 

Polysaccharides are three or more sugar molecules linked together.

Carbohydrates can be broken down into complex and simple carbohydrates. 

The difference between the two is that simple carbs pack their sugar molecules into a tiny space, which creates the highs and lows of blood sugar. 

Complex carbs bond their sugar together in long, tightly packed chains, so they break down more gradually.

The Different Kinds Of Carbohydrates

There are three different kinds of carbs which are sugars, starches, and fiber.

Sugars

Sugar is also known as a simple carbohydrate since it’s in its simplest form. Sugars are typically added to food and are in high quantities in candy, dessert, processed foods, and sodas. 

They also occur naturally in food as well. You’ll find more “natural” sugar in fruits, vegetables, and even dairy products. 

Starches

Starches are complex carbohydrates and are classified as being made up of long chains of sugar molecules. Starches are an essential component of many different foods.

For your body to use starches as energy, they need to be broken down into sugars first. 

Starches are classified based on their chemical structures. 

The three types of starch molecules are amylose, amylopectin, and isomalt. They differ in their crystal structures causing them to break down differently when used during cooking.

Starchy foods include whole grains, foods made with flour like pasta, potatoes, bread, and cereal. 

Fiber

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is found in plant foods and is not digested in the stomach. 

It passes through to the small intestine without being broken down and can typically be found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.

High-fiber foods affect your blood cholesterol levels in two ways: 

  • Fiber helps reduce the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol.  
  • Studies have shown that diets high in fiber are linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

Fiber has been shown to aid in stomach and intestinal issues like constipation. It’s also been shown to lower blood sugar.

The Function Of Carbs

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients in our diet, along with fat and protein.

Depending on if you’re on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, carbs can be the primary way your body is getting energy. 

If you starve yourself of carbohydrates, it can cause your body to go into ketosis, which is when your body starts to produce ketones from breaking down stored fat as fuel.

Amount Of Carbs You Can Have On Keto

While everyone will have a slightly different carb intake on the ketogenic diet, the main rule remains the same. 70% of your calories should come from healthy fats.

Your weight will determine how many grams of carbs you can have, but ideally, you want to be below 50 grams.

This is going to be roughly 5% of your daily caloric intake. 

If you live a more active lifestyle, you’ll be able to get away with eating slightly more carbs and remain in ketosis. 

If you have more than a little bit of weight to lose, you should be more restrictive with your diet to not slip into any bad habits. 

You can test yourself to see if you’re in ketosis by using urine testing strips. That will be the easiest and cheapest route to take.

List of Carbs You Can Consume on The Ketogenic Diet

Since you know what carbohydrates are and how much of them you need to be consuming daily, let’s look at some keto-friendly sources of carbohydrates.

You can add these foods to your current diet, but be sure to track your food and read the nutrition labels. It’s easy to overdo it on carbs. 

Here are a few:

Chocolate

Dark chocolate is very keto-friendly. 

Dark chocolate contains at least 70% cacao (chocolate liquor) and is rich in antioxidants. It also contains small amounts of magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, and many other minerals.

It’s also a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and is even considered a superfood. 

Dark chocolate is also rich in flavanols which have been shown in studies to reduce heart disease risks and lower blood pressure. (1)

Make sure the label says that there’s 85% or more of cocoa in it as anything less will contain higher amounts of carbohydrates and impact ketosis.

(Some) Vegetables

As we mentioned above, vegetables can store sugar and are a starchy carbohydrate. 

However, there are non-starchy vegetables that store small amounts of sugar. They are also low in carbs, low in calories, high in fiber, and nutrient-dense. 

Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, and bell peppers are healthy choices for a nutritious diet. They’re also low in calories but high in fiber and have little fat or sodium content.

While some of these vegetables have higher levels of fiber, and fiber is technically a carbohydrate, because fiber doesn’t break down into glucose in your body, it doesn’t count towards your daily carb intake. 

This is why you usually subtract fiber from carbs to get your net carbs. 

Here are some vegetables you can consume on keto:

  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Kale
  • Brussel sprouts    

A good rule of thumb is any vegetables that grow above the ground are typically low in carbs and non-starchy. However, it’s best to always check the nutrition facts to know for sure.

Avocados

If you’re on the ketogenic diet, you’re probably going to be seeing a lot of recipes with avocados. 

Not only do they have a high number of vitamins and minerals, but they’re a great source of healthy fat.

The reason avocados are popular on lower-carb diets is because it puts back the minerals that your body misses from not having carbs, helping avoid symptoms associated with the keto flu.

(Some) Fruit

Yes, even though avocados are a fruit, most other fruits are too high in carbohydrates to consume on keto.

However, berries are the exception to this. They’re low in carbs and high in fiber which is the perfect mix. 

They’re also loaded with antioxidants which have been seen in studies to prevent certain diseases and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Even though they’re low in carbs, you still want to keep track of how much you’re consuming so that you don’t go over your allotted carb intake for the day.

Here are a few more foods to add to your keto-approved low-carb list:

  1. Artichokes
  2. Asparagus
  3. Brussels sprouts
  4. Cauliflower
  5. Eggplant 
  6. Green beans (Frozen or canned) 
  7. Green peas (Frozen or canned)

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