Carbohydrate Intake Assignment

I am a 44-year old female; my height is 5’1”; and I weigh 125 pounds, which gives me a BMI of 23.6.  I am a chemist and began an assignment in Arizona. This has altered my normal exercise routine and stress levels significantly, but has not impacted my eating habits.  In fact, I find it easier to make appropriate nutritional choices and cook, since I am staying at a property with an amazing kitchen.

I currently have an active activity level, participating in Cross Fit training ~4 times per week for an hour.  I also practice yoga from 30-90 minutes per day to stretch, maintain flexibility and balance, and for relaxation. My dietary intake assessment was completed on a typical workday for me, in terms of food consumption and exercise.

My dietary philosophy is to follow a higher fat, lower carb, moderate protein diet. According to Mark Sisson’s Carbohydrate Curve (2016), read initially as part of in Au Naturale Nutrition (n.d.), I tend to eat around 100g of carbohydrates per day on most days, which is the border of the “Sweet Spot for Weight Loss” and “Maintenance Zone”. This allows me to consume additional carbs if I desire or eat lower-carb if I notice my weight becoming unstable. My personal philosophy is that eating habits are just one portion of my lifestyle, and diet shouldn’t be stressful. I allow myself a lot of grace and freedom in my choices, but don’t let myself stray too far from my ideals.

I eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, getting my carbohydrates from primarily vegetable and fruit sources, but I do allow myself small amounts of organic, non-GMO snack items that contain moderate sugar. However, I am particular about the ingredients of the processed items I choose to consume.  I usually enjoy either cookies or chips at lunch, and chocolate and/or a bite or two of ice cream at dinner.  I also appreciate a glass of wine with my dinner a couple of evenings per week.

On Monday, October 21, 2019, I consumed 1974 calories, which included 99g total carbohydrates, 114g fat, and 127g protein. Carbohydrates made up approximately 21% of my caloric intake, fats 53%, and protein 26%.   On this day, I worked out, did yoga, ate three meals, and had a massage (details are provided in my daily log).

My carbohydrate, fiber, and sugar consumption for October 21, 2019 is shown in Figure 1.  Foods not containing carbohydrates are excluded from this table. Overall, I consumed 99g of carbohydrate, which included 37g of fiber and 40g of sugar.  If I assume all of the sugar from processed food and wine items were in the form of “added sugar”, I can estimate that I consumed approximately 13.6g of added sugar (2.8% of my total calories).

In terms of the Dietary Guideline Recommendation (DGR) related to carbohydrates, a female aged 31-50 should aim for 1800 calories that include 25.2g of fiber and less than 10% added sugar.  Based upon the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), she should consume at least 130g of carbohydrates to maintain good health. Considering the Average Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR), a healthy diet for that same female would include carbohydrates representing 45-65% of total calories (Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations, n.d.).

Item Name Carbohydrate (g) Fiber (g) Sugar (g)
Total 99 37.0 40.0
Blackberries 13.6 7.5 6.9
Avocado 8.5 6.7 0.7
Simple Mills Chocolate Chip Cookie 8.0 0.7 4.0
Onions, Chopped 7.5 1.4 3.4
Avocado 6.4 5.0 0.5
Broccoli 6.0 2.4 1.5
Dark Chocolate, 88% Cocoa 5.7 2.0 1.7
So Delicious Dairy Free Banans Foster (cashew milk) 5.5 0.1 4.5
Tomatoes, Red 4.8 1.5 3.2
Squash, Summer, All Varieties, Sliced, Boiled, Drained 3.9 1.3 2.3
Wine, White 3.8 0.0 1.4
Crushed Red Pepper 3.4 2.6 0.6
BRAGG Salad Dressing, Vinaigrette 3.0 0.0 2.0
Asparagus 2.6 1.4 1.2
Spinach, Chopped, Raw 2.1 1.2 0.2
Spinach, Chopped, Raw 2.1 1.2 0.2
Shrimp, Steamed 2.0 0.0 0.0
Pepper, Bell or Sweet, Yellow 1.8 0.3 0.7
Pepper, Bell or Sweet, Yellow 1.8 0.3 0.7
Pepper, Bell or Sweet, Red 1.7 0.6 1.2
Pepper, Bell or Sweet, Red 1.7 0.6 1.2
Egg, Raw 1.1 0.0 0.5
Pepper, Jalapeno 0.9 0.4 0.6
Pepper, Jalapeno 0.9 0.4 0.6

Figure 1.  Carbohydrate, Fiber, and Sugar content of foods from 10/21/2019.

Looking at my dietary intake from the lens of understanding carbohydrates only, I find that I didn’t really follow the “rules”. My carbohydrate intake is short of the RDA recommendations and significantly different from the AMDR.  I consumed 99g of carbohydrates, which made up 21% of my total calories.  My added sugar represented 2.8% of my total calories, which is less than the 10% recommended in the DGR.  Another success was my fiber content, due to eating a significant amount of fruits and vegetables, which totaled 37.0g, higher than the 25.2g recommended by the DGR.

I consumed a mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates in the fruits and vegetables (mostly fructose and fiber, respectively), and refined carbohydrates in my processed food choices (cookies, ice cream, chocolate, salad dressing, and wine).  I consumed very little of the starch type of complex carbohydrates, excluding the small amount of tapioca starch and coconut flour in my cookies. I have been consuming a diet similar to this for close to a year now.  I feel that my biochemical individuality responds well to a lower carbohydrate, higher fat diet, especially free from too many refined carbohydrates.  Fruits and vegetables are excellent for proving my nutrient needs and offer a low glycemic load to my body.  I have done significant blood measurements while consuming this dietary system and I have excellent glucose levels and am insulin sensitive, as shown by my fasting and postprandial glucose, fasting insulin, and Hemoglobin A1C values.  For me, low levels of insulin tend to keep my weight under control, my mood stable, and I have a continuous supply of energy. Also, for my biochemical individuality, the timing of meals is important.  I tend to eat three meals with little or no snacking.  This is to allow my glucose and insulin levels to stabilize after meals.

When I find my carbohydrate consumption increasing, it tends to snowball, and before you know it, I am eating donuts and candy, and fighting the urge to eat at fast food restaurants.  In the past, when I’ve eaten in excess and/or carbohydrates throughout the day, my blood glucose has done some pretty crazy things, especially overnight.  I get hot flashes, tachycardia, and nausea.  While I do stray from my typical approach to eating from time to time (as I feel life is more than a nutritional plan), I always feel best when I return to the dietary philosophy discussed in this paper.

If I wanted to increase my carbohydrate intake to be more consistent with the USDA recommendations, I would want to add whole grains that are properly prepared (i.e. soaked and sprouted) to ensure they are well digested by my body and nutrients are not lost.  I may also want to add sources of dairy.  While some daily is problematic for me, I probably don’t need to go as extreme non-dairy as I tend to.  Since I enjoy cookies so much, I could make a dark chocolate oatmeal cookie with steel cut oats, or some variation like that.  However, I do not personally feel that I need to consume 45-65% of my daily calories from carbohydrates, or at least 130g per day. I do not disagree that the body requires an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for fuel, but it has mechanisms for synthesizing glucose from other nutritional sources through the process of gluconeogenesis (Tortora & Derrickson, 2019).  For this reason, carbohydrates cannot be considered an essential nutrient required from the diet (Fung, 2016).

I believe carbohydrates, primarily from fruit, vegetable, and whole grain sources are an important part of a healthy diet. These whole food carbohydrates provide fiber, nutrients, and complex carbohydrates to fuel the body.  Refined carbohydrates, especially refined sugar products, should be consumed in moderation.  I feel that balance is important and meeting the biochemical requirements of each individual is of utmost concern.

References

Au Naturale Nutrition. (n.d.). The Au Naturale Nutrition Guide to Carbohydrates (printable). Retrieved October 20, 2019, from http://www.aunaturalenutrition.com/articles/the-au-naturale-nutrition-guide-to-carbs.

Fung, J. (2016). The Obesity Code:  Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss. Greystone Books.

Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations (Appendix 7). (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2019, from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/.

Sisson, M. (2016, August 11). How many carbs should I eat each day? Retrieved October 21, 2019, from https://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-carbohydrate-continuum/.

Tortora, G. J., & Derrickson, B. (2019). Introduction to the human body. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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