First Light Healthcare


With Cape Byron Medical’s Accredited Practicing Dietitian Gabriela Negrao


What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy of the body. They can appear in different forms such as simple (sugars) and complex (starches and fibre).

Simple carbohydrates can be added to foods such as table sugar and concentrated fruit juices or found in foods such as fruits, milk and derivates. They are quickly metabolised (broken down) by the body, producing quick energy.

Complex carbohydrates are found in legumes, starchy vegetables such as potato and sweet potato, and wholemeal and wholegrain grains and cereals (such as wholemeal breads, brown rice, brown pasta, oats). They tend to be higher in fibre, therefore digested more slowly by the body.

How do they work in your body?

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy that fuels our body. Carbohydrates are digested and broken down into glucose to be absorbed by the body, for energy production. Not all carbohydrates have the same effect in the body. The complex and rich fibre carbs release energy more slowly, being beneficial for weight management and overall health. While simple carbohydrates are a quick source of energy and if not used (such as by exercise) they can be stored as fat in the body.

What foods are high in carbohydrates?

Portion sizes play a big role in determining the amount of carbohydrates of foods, however, Carbohydrates rich foods are potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes, sweets in general, and soft-drinks.

What foods are low in carbohydrates?

Most vegetables are low in carbohydrates, as well as oils and nuts.

What is a low carb diet?

Low carb diet is defined by having between 90-130g of carbohydrates per day.

Can a low carb diet make you sick?

Yes. As with any diet, if not done properly a low carb diet can have many side effects. A common side effect is headaches. This because the main source of energy of the brain is the glucose.

What do I need to do to eat low carb and stay healthy?

Making sure you are having all food groups in the adequate amounts as per the dietary guidelines for healthy eating Australian Dietary Guidelines . Also, variety is the key in order to ensure the intake of the most nutrients.

Is a low carb diet good for diabetes?

Yes. Diabetes is defined by the excess of sugar in the blood, as a consequence of deficient or non- production of insulin. Therefore, in diabetes, it is more likely for carbohydrates to be accumulate in the blood. By having a low carb diet, it is less likely for carbohydrates to build up into the blood, thus improving the blood sugar levels. It does not mean that all people with diabetes should go on a low carb diet. A dietitian is important here to determine the amounts and food sources of the carbohydrates, based on the individual’s current diet, other medical issues, intolerances, medication and lifestyle.

Can I eat fruit on a low carb diet?

Yes, definitely. Fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates and fibre.

Can I drink alcohol on a low carbohydrate diet?

It is not recommended. The alcohol has large amounts of energy, approximately 7 kcal/g. Therefore, it might add extra kcal to the diet.

Is a low carb diet the same as a ketogenic diet?

No. The ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates to 50g or less, in order to induce the ketosis (energy production from fat). While the low carb diet aims for up to 130g carbohydrates per day.

Can I do low carb if I am a vegetarian?

Yes. It is possible. Consulting a dietitian is extremely important to ensure adequate intake of carbohydrates and other important micro (vitamins and minerals) and macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein). Some macro and micronutrients can be deficient in a vegetarian diet, such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium, omega-3 and vitamin B12.

For more information on dietary issues, book a session with Gabriela by calling 6685 6326 or book online

By Cape Byron Medical Centre