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Carbs — Do you need it or not?

October 7, 2020 9:00 am


Carbohydrates or “ carbs ” has been one of the center of attention and confusion these days, especially among the “dieting” community. It has been a hotly debated topic, especially in the weight loss world, due in part to diets that promote high fat, high protein and low to no carb consumption in order to induce weight loss.  These diets have resulted to a bad rap about carbohydrates as being the cause of rapid and excessive weight gain among many people.

  • What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three nutrients that form a large part of diet. It provides energy to fuel our bodies just as the same way gasoline fuels the car. Carbohydrates are being broken down to its simplest form of sugar- glucose- which our cells can easily convert to energy to meet our bodies’ demands every day.

The energy we get from carbohydrates allows us to do daily activities from simple activities such as walking and talking to complex activities such as running and moving heavy objects. Fuel is also needed to sustain growth, which makes it essential for growing children and pregnant women. Even at rest, the body needs energy to perform vital functions such as maintaining body temperature, keeping the heart beating and digesting food.

There are 3 types of carbohydrates and each serves different purposes:

Types of Carbohydrates Simple Sugars Fiber Starch
Where is it found?
  • Naturally occurring in dairy products, fruits and fruit juices
  • Added sugar during processing or at the table
  • Found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes (dried beans, peas)
  • Found in bread, rice, potatoes, pasta,
What does it do?
  • Provides quick release of energy
  • Helps us feel full
  •  Improves digestion
  • Helps in maintaining normal blood sugar
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Improves gut health
  • Provides a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day.
  • Are all carbohydrates equal?

All carbohydrates turn into glucose and raise our blood sugar, but some do it in a faster rate than others. Blood sugar control is very important for weight management and diabetes control.

Fiber containing carbohydrates (fruits, non-processed starches, plant-based foods) takes longer time to be digested, so glucose is released into the blood stream slowly and steadily. On the other hand, simple sugars and starches whose fibers were removed during processing (refined carbs) are quicker to digest leading to faster release of glucose into the bloodstream.

  • What will the body use for fuel if carbohydrates are eliminated from the diet?

If carbohydrates will be eliminated from the diet, the body will turn to fat and protein for energy. This is the reason why carbohydrate-restricted diets claim they are great for weight loss. However, neither fat nor protein are efficient energy source.

  • Fat as an energy source. If carbohydrates will be restricted for a long period of time, the body’s fat stores will be converted to ketones that are mildly acidic. Some parts of our bodies- brain and kidneys, for example- have a very specific need for glucose. The body is not used to using ketones for energy. Thus, people on a high fat, low to no carb diet experiences headaches, dizziness, weakness and irritability. Studies also have shown that high fat, low to no carb diets have been linked to the development and worsening cases of hypertension, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
  • Protein as an energy source. Protein’s main job is to build our bodies and help in maintaining a healthy immune system, and not to be an energy source. Using protein stores for energy will compromise the building of muscles and immunity.
  • Are carbohydrates the main culprit in rapid and excessive weight gain?

No. Any food when taken in excess can result to weight gain. If there is a frequent consumption of more energy than what the body needs, weight gain would most likely happen.

Instead of totally eliminating carbohydrates, practice PROPER PORTION CONTROL.

  • Are there any rice alternatives that I can choose to eat during meal time?

Below are some food items that you can substitute with ½ cup of boiled white rice . The servings specified for each item will give 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams protein and 100 calories .

3-4 pieces (50 grams) Calasiao
8 pieces (40 grams) Chestnut, roasted
1 slice (35 grams) Espasol
1 slice (50 grams) Kalamay with Latik
3 pieces (50 grams) Palitaw
1 piece (80 grams) Plantains
1 piece (170 grams) Potato
2 pieces (40 grams) Puto bumbong
4 pieces (25 grams) Puto seko
1 1/2 cups (250 grams) Rice Gruel (Lugaw), Thick consistency- 1/2 cup cooked ric + 2 cups water
1/2 cup (80 grams) Rice, undermiled, brown, boiled
Rice, undermilled,red, boiled
1 piece (60 grams) Suman sa ibos
1/2 piece (55 grams) Suman sa Lihiya
2 pieces (100 grams) Tamales
1 slice (40 grams) Tikoy
1 piece (35 grams) Tupig
1/2 cup (90 grams) Binatog
1/2 cup (25 grams) Corn flakes
1 cup (120 grams) Corn grits (yelow, white)
1/2 piece (65 grams) Corn on cob (yellow, white)
1/2 cup (130 grams) Corn, cream style, canned
1 cup (160 grams) Corn, whole corn kernel, canned

Carbohydrates are our major energy source. They should be part of a healthy diet even when trying to reduce weight. Portion control is the key to weight management, not food group elimination.

Explore new ways on how to create delicious and easy-to-cook carbohydrate dishes that you can do at home. Try our low fat version of Chicken Potato Salad which you can also serve during meal time!



Carbohydrates- Good or Bad for You? (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/carbohydrates–good-or-bad-for-you)

Get to Know Carbs (https://www.diabetes.org/nutrition/understanding-carbs/get-to-know-carb)

The truth about carbs (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/why-we-need-to-eat-carbs/)


Deborah A. Sales, RND is a licensed nutritionist-dietitian handling the Science Communication Section of AJINOMOTO PHILIPPINES CORPORATION’s Public Relations Department. She is a technical expert in food and health and an experienced Culinary Nutrition spokesperson.