Love your carbs? A simple DIY test can reveal how your body processes carbs and your carb type, and which can have big health benefits and even help you lose weight.
Perplexed about why some people can tuck into as much pasta as they want and never seem to gain weight, but you feel like the scales creep up every time you look at a bread roll? It turns out you’re not just imagining it.
According to Dr Sharon Moalem, a leading geneticist, different people process carbohydrates differently – so while some people thrive on them, others should restrict how many they eat in a day.
“Carbohydrates have been villainised for years, but many of our ancestors who were farmers gave us the genes to thrive on a diet that’s up to 50 per cent carb-based,” says Dr Moalem. “If you inherited a high carb tolerance from your ancestors and you try to severely limit carbs in your diet, you won’t feel very well and any weight loss you achieve won’t be sustainable.
“On the other hand, if your ancestors were hunters and ate very few carbs, they didn’t pass on the genes required for a high-carb diet,” he says. “So if you eat too many carbs, achieving your ideal weight and health status will be almost impossible.”
The surprising news is, you don’t even need an expensive genetic test to work out which carbohydrates ‘group’ you fall into. Take the cracker self-test to find out your carb type.
An unsalted, unflavoured cracker, like a water cracker, and a timer (the stopwatch function on your phone will work nicely). If you eat a gluten-free diet, swap the cracker for a small piece of raw peeled potato.
Take a bite of the cracker and begin timing and chewing – resist the urge to swallow! You need to pay attention as you’re chewing, to note when the cracker changes taste.
What the results mean: If you noticed that the crackers changed taste in:
You thrive on carbs, and up to 50 per cent of your calories can come from carbohydrates, which means you can eat around 250 g of carbs a day. The remaining 50 per cent of the calories should be divided between fats (30 per cent) and protein (20 per cent).
Up to 35 per cent of your calories can come from carbohydrates, so you can eat 175 g of carbs a day. Another 35 per cent of your calories should come from fats, and 30 per cent from protein.
As a guide, here’s how different foods stack up in terms of their carbohydrate content…
1 cup of cooked quinoa = 39 g
1 medium banana = 22 g
1 cup of cooked pasta = 42 g
1 medium baked potato = 21 g
What You Need To Know About Your Carb Type
1 Working out your “carb type” is just the start
In his book, The DNA Restart, Dr Moalem recommends “syncing” your dietary and lifestyle habits with your genes.
Do this by exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, quitting processed meats, and practising five key pillars – Eat for Your Genes, Reverse Ageing, Eat Umami, Drink Oolong tea and Slow Living.
“The first pillar helps you recalibrate your carbohydrate, fat and protein consumption to your genetic make-up to lose weight, and the others ensure you live a long, healthy life,” he says.
2 It’s not just about losing weight
“It pays to remember that while there’s an association between weight and health, you can actually be skinny and unhealthy, leading a lifestyle that harms your DNA, which shortens your life span,” says Dr Moalem.
That’s why the focus of The DNA Restart is the genes we inherit from our ancestors. “By learning to not only eat for those genes, but to take better care of them as well, through reducing inflammation and activating inherent DNA repair mechanisms, we can reset our course to health and longevity,” he says.
3 Start eating “umami”
“Called the fifth taste, foods rich in umami qualities make you feel satisfied faster,” says Dr Moalem. Potent sources of umami include miso, tamari, dried mushrooms, yoghurt, tomatoes, prawns, Worcestershire and fish sauces, fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines, and parmesan.
“By incorporating some simple umami-enhancing techniques, like using whole tomatoes in your recipes because the seeds in the tomato are the richest source of umami, you can capitalise on umami’s ability to make you feel fuller, for longer,” he says.
4 Drink Oolong tea
Dr Moalem recommends drinking between two and four cups a day. “Oolong tea binds dietary fat and prevents your body from absorbing it,” he says. Oolong tea is also rich in antioxidants called polyphenols.
Choose a good-quality oolong tea (look for teabags where you can see the whole leaves unfurl once the bag is submerged in water), boil the jug and then wait a couple of minutes for the water to cool a little. Pour about 180 ml of water over a teabag and let it steep for one or two minutes. Remove the bag and drink the tea black and unsweetened.
5 It pays to slow down
Dr Moalem advocates ‘slow living’, which includes slowing down your eating speed.
“A great way to start practising slow living is doing the ‘First Bite/Last Bite’ exercise at least once a day, with a meal.” Here’s how: • Once you’ve had your first mouthful of food, wait 30 seconds before taking another bite.
• When you’re coming to the end of your meal and there’s only one mouthful of food left on your plate, stop and wait at least 30 seconds before you eat it.