How low should I keep my carb level?

This article was originally published in the Daily Mail.

More and more academics and medics around the world are leading the charge by quitting sugar and cutting back on carbohydrates, as research highlights the destructive impact on health of high blood sugar levels.

The sugar-free message forms an important part of the ‘clean eating’ and Paleo movements, which are gaining popularity among the rich and famous. However, unless you have a personal nutritionist on speed dial, it can be difficult to contemplate living your whole life without sugar, eating far fewer carbohydrates than is the norm.

The very low-sugar diet plan we have been outlining all week can be easily adapted to provide a foolproof blueprint for a healthy diet whether you have excess weight to shift or not.

If you know you are addicted to sugar, and worry about the power it has over you, aim to reset your body. Keep sugar cravings at bay by sticking to the weight-loss version of the sugar-free eating plan for eight weeks, regardless of whether or not you have weight to lose.

This plan keeps total carbohydrates at 50g per day (or up to 120g if you’re very active). If you relax your control too soon and let sugar and refined carbohydrates creep back before your system has truly settled, you run the risk of undoing the good work already done.

For the rest of us, it is just useful to think of the diet plan as a great starting point. Once your weight or cravings have settled, you can think about building on this plan to create a long-term blueprint that suits your life and your body.

After a few weeks without sugar, your body should start telling you what it needs to remain healthy — signals that will no longer be masked by sugar cravings and unexplainable hunger.

This means you can gradually increase your carbohydrate intake by enjoying a wider range of fruit and slightly more starchy vegetables and pulses until you find the ideal cut-off point that suits you. If you are naturally apple shaped, tend to have high or low blood sugar levels, or if you have diabetes, you might find it better to stick close to the 50g limit most days (but discuss this diet first with your GP or diabetes nurse).

Watch out for cravings, mood swings — often caused by intense highs and lows in your blood sugar — or weight gain. These are signs that your carbohydrate intake might have crept up and could do with a little adjusting.

To find your ideal level, gradually increase your carbohydrate intake by 5g per day while monitoring your weight, hunger and cravings (see chart on the final page for 5g carbohydrate comparisons).

The ideal sugar-free plan would keep you below 120g total carbs per day, and for your major source to be non-starchy fruit and veg.

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NOTE: Please consult with your health care practitioner before making any changes.

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