Paleo Carbs List (Grain-free, Gluten-free!)
When starting a gluten-free or paleo diet, one of the biggest questions that people ask is ‘where will I get my carbs?‘.
This is a fair question (and one that we had too!) especially given that carbs have been equated with bread, pasta and cereal grains here in the Western world. So if you’re struggling to understand how to incorporate more carbs into your paleo diet – don’t worry, we get it!
Rest assured, there are plenty of healthy, whole food carbohydrate sources aside from grains, legumes and wheat products. ?
To make this easy, we’re breaking down this topic to explain what carbs are, how much we should be eating and where to find ’em. We’ve also compiled a list of gluten-free, grain-free, paleo carbs below!
Getting Started: What Exactly is a Carb?
Before we dive in, let’s do a quick recap on exactly what carbs are and why they’re important!
Carbohydrates are a major macronutrient (alongside protein and fats) and are used by the body to produce energy. In foods, carbs may be found as either simple sugars (those in fruits, honey and dairy) or as complex carbohydrates (such as in starchy vegetables).
Without getting too technical, the key difference between the two is that complex carbohydrates are made up of chains of simple sugars. During digestion, these long chains are broken down into simple sugars (generally glucose) which can then be absorbed into the blood and metabolised.
Simple sugars, on the other hand, are typically absorbed more readily during digestion as they need less enzymatic breakdown.
So we can see that all carbohydrates, whether simple or complex, are converted predominantly into glucose within the body and used for energy. Specifically, glucose fuels our muscles, organs, brain and red blood cells. Glucose is also stored in our liver and muscles in the form of glycogen, which can be called upon during exercise or when our blood sugar levels are low.
Related: Chilli + Lime Loaded Sweet Potatoes
How Many Carbs Should I be Eating?
Another hot question: exactly how many carbs should we eat? Carbohydrate needs vary depending on activity levels, weight loss goals and certain underlying conditions (e.g. hypothyroidism, insulin resistance). It may take some experimentation to find where your body works best!
For many women a moderate carbohydrate intake will be appropriate – comprising 30% of your daily energy intake or roughly 150g carbs per day. From here, don’t be afraid to adjust your intake higher or lower, noting how your body responds. Some signs to look out for include your sleep, energy levels and concentration. However do keep in mind that beginning a paleo diet you may experience some energy changes as your body adapts to burning fat.
As a reference, here are some general guidelines for gauging your carbohydrate intake:
- Very Low Carb (<50g or <10%): Very low carb diets induce nutritional ketosis – a state when the body is fuelled by fat and ketones rather than glucose. Ketogenic diets may be used therapeutically in some conditions.
- Low Carb (50-100g or 10-15%): A low carb intake may be helpful for weight loss or blood sugar dysregulation.
- Moderate Carb (100-150g or 15-30%): Moderate carb intake is suitable for maintaining a healthy weight.
- High Carb (>150g or >30%): High carbohydrate diets are suitable for athletes and highly active people.
*These carbohydrate ranges are suitable for women and based on a 2000 calorie diet. These values are based on recommendations available here on chriskresser.com (male ranges also available through the link!).
Paleo Carbs Food List:
*It’s important to note that all fruits and vegetables contain some level of carbohydrate; however, non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, leafy vege) and certain fruits (e.g. berries) contain relatively small amounts of net carbohydrate (total carbohydrate minus fibre). They are therefore not included on this list as significant sources of carbohydrate.
- Sweet Potato
- White Potato (Avoid if you don’t tolerate nightshades)
- Pumpkin (Butternut, spaghetti squash)
- Cassava/ Yuca
- Oranges, tangerines
- Milk, some cheeses
Measuring Your Carb Intake
Now, let’s put it all into action!
The best way to get an understanding of your body’s individual carb needs is to go ahead and measure. It’s not likely you’ll want to do this everyday (but totally cool if you do!). If you can do this for at least a week, you’ll gain some valuable insights into your body’s needs and what that actually looks like.
All that you’ll need is a set of electronic kitchen scales and the carbohydrate content per 100g of each of your foods. Then go ahead and calculate! You may be surprised how much it takes to hit a moderate level of carbs!
We want to help make this as easy as possible! To get the cheat sheet (including the paleo carb list and carbohydrate content), click here.
What level of carbs works for you? And what’s your favourite way to enjoy paleo carbs? (we ❤️ stuffed sweet potatoes!) – Comment below!