Paleo Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have caused a lot of controversy over the years and different diets adopt different attitudes towards them.

A diet high in refined carbohydrate diets is not healthy – especially the standard western diet, where carbohydrates are eaten way too much. The sources of these particular carbohydrates are mostly from grains and sugar / fructose, all of which contribute to health issues. As a result of this highly disordered eating – the high intake of poor quality carbohydrates contributes to metabolic disease, inflammation, overeating and obesity – (Do not forget that there are many contributors to our poor health, and not just excess poor quality carbs).

junk carbohydrates

The Paleo diet is not low carb, although it is lower in carbohydrates than the average western diet. It is also a better choice for carbohydrates compared to some nutrient-poor diets. Everyone is different and we all need different amounts of carbohydrates in order to maintain optimum health.

Why carbs are important:

  • For healthy weight
  • For healthy sleep
  • For healthy thyroid
  • For your immune system
  • For energy
  • For fertility and pregnancy

There are people who thrive better on a very low carb diet (e.g. someone who suffers from epilepsy) and there are people who thrive better on a higher carb diet. Most people respond well to being on a moderate carb intake, one which can be tweaked for each individual.

What we need to move away from are meals that are based on cereals, breads and pastas. Our bodies flourish when utilising healthy fats as a primary fuel source and these will provide you with long-lasting, balanced energy – no sugar highs and crashes, and no having to eat every hour in order to not be moody or have your blood sugar levels drop.

Carbohydrates are necessary to feed different functions in the body, but far too many carbs are being consumed in today’s society and their quality can be very poor. Quality and quantity of carb intake really does matter!

vegetables fruit good carbohydrates

Insulin is released in response to food being consumed, but mostly in response to the consumption of carbohydrates. If you feed yourself a huge amount of carbs (sugars), your body will need to release a large amount of insulin to clean up any large amounts of glucose floating around in the bloodstream. If this is happening all day long (because you need to eat every few hours to stop from being moody), your body will always be in storage mode.

Glucose gets converted to glycogen, which in turn is stored in the liver and muscles (to be used as fuel). Once these storage compartments are full, the remaining glycogen converts into fats – in the forms of triglycerides (blood fats) and adipose tissue (body fat).

So here you see a picture forming:

  • Using carbs as a primary fuel source,
  • Needing to eat continually for energy, but eating too much energy.

Glycogen stores become full because the average Joe sits at a desk job and drives to work, never getting the chance to use up these stores. On the rare occasion the gym is visited, glucose is still in the system due to frequent eating, so this is burned as energy and the fat stores never get tapped into. Excess weight is packed on and triglycerides rise. This is definitely not the sort of cycle you want to get trapped in!

carbohydrate cycle

In summary:

  • Eat too many carbs and your body will need to convert them to fat.
  • Eat too few carbs and your body will need to make glucose from proteins (a process called gluconeogenesis).

Neither of these are an ideal situation to be stuck in for a long period of time. Everything in moderation and remember, as with most things, your body needs balance.

VEGETABLE SOURCES OF PALEO CARBS: These are highly recommended for post-workout glycogen replacement to your muscles after CrossFit or HIIT style training or longer, endurance-based training. 
Item CHO g per 100g serving Fibre g per 100g serving CHO g per 1cup serving Portion Size Notes Other Notable Nutrients
cassava 38 2 78 1c= 206g Vitamin C, Thiamin, Folate, Potassium, Manganese
taro root 35 5 46 1c= 132g Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, potassium, manganese
plantains 31 2 48 1c= 154g (slices) Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium
yam 27 4 37 1c= 136g (cubed) Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Potassium
sweet potato 21 3 58 1c= 328g (mashed) Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Iron (non-heme), Vitamin E
parsnips 17 4 27 1c= 178g (sliced) Vitamin C, Manganese.
lotus root 16 3 19 1c= 120g (sliced) Vitamin C.
acorn squash 15 4 31 1c= 205g Vitamin C.
onion 10 1 21 1c= 210g (chopped) Vitamin C, Potassium.
beets 10 2 17 1c= 170g (sliced) Folate, Manganese.
carrots 10 3 13 1c= 128g (chopped) Vitamin A, Vitamin K,
butternut squash 10  – 22 1c= 205g Vitamin A, Vitamin C
jicama (raw) 9 5 12 1c= 130g (slices) Vitamin C.
kohlrabi 7 1 12 1c = 165g Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese
spaghetti squash 6 1 9 1c= 155g Not very many. 
FRUIT SOURCES OF PALEO CARBS: These are recommended for pre-workout glycogen storage and as glycogen replacement to your muscles post-workout if you’ve completed a longer, endurance-based training session. These are not ideal for post-workout of standard CrossFit or HIIT style training. (Note: Most dried fruits will be pretty high in carbs, I only featured raisins and dates here, but search others to find their values as I wanted to provide more fresh fruit options for you.)
Item CHO g per 100g serving Fibre g per 100g serving CHO g per 1cup serving Portion Size Notes Other Notable Nutrients
raisins 79 4 131 1c= 165g (packed) Iron (non-heme), Potassium, Copper, Manganese
dates 75 7 18* *1 date Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese,
persimmon 33 8* *1 fruit Vitamin C, Iron (non-heme)
banana 23 3 27* *1 medium banana Vitamin C, B6, Potassium, Manganese.
mango 17 2 28 1c= 165g (sliced) Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6
pear 15 3 28* *1 medium pear Vitamin C, Vitamin K.
apple 14 2 25* *1 medium apple Not very much- a little Vitamin C.
pineapple 13 1 21 1c= 165g (chunks) Vitamin C, Manganese
peach 10 1 15* *1 medium peach Vitamin A, Vitamin C.