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Laura Dolson

How Much Carb Should You Eat?

By January 6, 2014

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scales"How much carbohydrate should I eat?" is one of the most common questions I get. The problem is, I can't really honestly give a quick answer to that question. The truth is that there is no one amount of carbohydrate that works for everyone. This is the way I think of it:

There is a range of carbohydrate tolerance in people. Some people seemingly thrive on high-carb diets (I say "seemingly" because we just don't know what effects this may have in the long run). As we age, more and more of us become at least mildly insulin resistant, which is the beginning of the trek towards diabetes. Once this begins, our bodies simply don't process carbohydrate as easily, and we can gain weight and have other health problems such as abnormal blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol, in addition to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

If you respond at all positively to limiting carbs, that is a pretty strong message! But how do you know how much is safe for you? One way is to experiment, and monitor your own weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar to see what effects different diets have on you. Cravings are another sign that you are eating too much carbohydrate. I have some tips in What Carb Level is Right For You? .

Photo © Karen Struthers

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January 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm
(1) Isabel says:

I have just finished reading your “how to cut carbs – web version of email course” and had to write and tell you how wonderful it is. So very helpful. I have been low carb now for about 18 months with various lapses here and there. I found the first 8 months easy but unfortunately began to get cocky and introduce ‘bad’ carbs again thinking I could handle it – you know, sounds like you’ve been there. So happy to have found your info – there is SO much of it, it will help me to keep going low carb without getting bored. I miss ‘sweet’ and breads but there is so much content in your low carb info that I don’t think I could ever get through it all. Thanks again for taking the time to do what you do. PS: I managed to lose 70 lb and so far am maintaining with a 10 lb variance – want to lose more which is how I came upon your site
- Isabel

January 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm
(2) lowcarbdiets says:

Isabel, thank you so much for writing! I am so pleased that this site is helpful to you, and I wish you all the best on this journey that we are on together!

January 16, 2012 at 12:29 pm
(3) Christie says:

I agree with Isabel….just found your site and I’m impressed! Diagnosed as a diabetic just six months ago, I’ve been going low carb (against my doctor’s advice) for about 4 1/2 months. I’ve lost 25 pounds and reduced and leveled my blood glucose. Doctor is impressed, but says noone can stay on low carb indefinitely. For me, I aim for less than 100 g per day, and feel great.
With help from sites like yours, I think I can go for the long haul!

January 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(4) Connie Warner says:

I’ve done low carb and very low carb for over 10 years and lost over 50 pounds but always had cravings. Now I follow the Perfect Health Diet (PHD) http://www.perfecthealthdiet.com which advocates 20% carbs, 15% protein and 65% fat, so it’s fairly low carb. But their diet really focuses on getting the right macronutrients. Paul Jaminet believes that cravings are not a result of eating too much carbs, but rather a result of malnutrition – caused by not getting the right nutrients, not getting enough carbs and also by toxins and also an imbalanced Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio! The PDH diet recommends removing toxins: no grains (no wheat, corn, rye, oats, etc.), no vegetable oils (too high in Omega 6), very little sugar (fruit is acceptable along with selected sweeteners in moderation (such as rice syrup)), getting enough of the right kind of fat and getting enough carbs and the diet allows for safe starches (white rice, sweet potatoes, white potatoes plus a few others). It’s very important, according to PHD, to get enough Omega 3 and not too much Omega 6; most people have too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. And they have a list of supplements that they recommend. I have been following this diet and taken the recommended supplements for over 6 months now and have found it really has helped control my cravings and I feel happier and healthier and my weight is under control! The book is very detailed and the blog is a wealth of information -! highly recommend it!!

January 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm
(5) Gail A. Clowers says:

I started low-carb about 15 years ago to lose weight. I lost about 75 lbs in short order. The best part was my blood quality. I used to have a very triglyceride problem, but after about 6 months it went down to a very low level and my bad cholesteral went way down too. I have stayed on my low-carb plan religiously ever since. I attempt to eat no more than 15 grams per day. I avoid all sugar altogether and have no trouble finding very good low-carb things to eat. I appreciate the recipes found on this column. By doing this, I am maintaining my weight and blood quality.

January 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm
(6) Judy Olstrom says:

To Ms. Warner, I think it is terribly rude for you to PUSH your PHD diet with it’s so called “safe starches,” on this website. There is nothing safe about white potatoes, with their high sugar content and white rice. Your review belongs on Amazon, where it would find a more believable audience.

January 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm
(7) TR says:

As it turns out, the safe starches aren’t high in sugar
(fructose/glucose), but instead convert to glucose only, which the body needs. You can consume the glucose or your body will make it. Either way, it needs glucose. PHD is best described as low to moderate carb. The science behind it is solid. Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson have a solid understanding of this as well.

January 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm
(8) lowcarbdiets says:

Hi, TR -

First of all, this post is a re-post from a year ago, so those comments are old, but thanks very much for weighing in. (I actually didn’t realize there were comments when I reposted; I usually try to avoid that.)

I would disagree that glucose is not sugar (just ask a diabetic), but agree that fructose has its own issues that are in many ways worse, and also a problem for more people. I wrote something about the safe starches debate last spring:


See also this one, which talks about how prevalent disorders of glucose metabolism are:


Best wishes, and thanks again -


January 17, 2013 at 6:54 pm
(9) TR says:

Hi Laura-
After posting, I noticed the date on the previous comment. No problem! I guess I should have clarified, glucose is not sugar as in table sugar. And yes, fructose is a very real problem above the small amounts found in most fruit. I was a very low carber for many years, but still had cravings for sweets and had a rebound in weight even when limiting my carbs. For me anyway, adding natural foods that are starch killed my cravings and weight loss resumed. But I’m still LC as most define it.

January 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm
(10) lowcarbdiets says:

Hi again -

We are in total agreement. I tried adding moderate amounts starches a few months ago as an experiment, but it didn’t work out for me. It was OK the first few days, but then it threw me right back in to carb cravings. But I am a big believer that everyone needs to find the amount of carb that works for them, and there’s nothing good about less carb if your body doesn’t respond as well — and actually better if you can eat the wider variety of foods that more carb affords — as long as its healthy whole food, of course!

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