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The g.i. factor: how much carbohydrate do you need in a day?
THE G.I. FACTOR: HOW MUCH CARBOHYDRATE DO YOU NEED IN A DAY?
Most of the world's population eat a high carbohydrate diet based on staples such as rice, maize (corn), millet and wheat-based foods like pasta or bread. In developing countries, carbohydrate may form 70 to 80 per cent of a person's kilojoule intake. In developed countries the intake may be half this. In the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, carbohydrate typically contributes only 40 to 45 per cent of kilojoule intake. In these countries, carbohydrate, the body's vital energy source, tends to be crowded out by fat.
Current recommendations suggest that we take at least 50 to 60 per cent of our total kilojoules as carbohydrate. To do this we need to consume 150 grams of carbohydrate for every 4200 kilojoules (1000 Calories). For a low kilojoule diet (5000 kilojoules/1200 Calories) it means eating about 175 grams of carbohydrate per day (equivalent to about 12 slices of bread). A young, active person with higher energy requirements, say in the order of 8400 kilojoules (2000 Calories) would require 300 grams of carbohydrate (equivalent to about 20 slices of bread). As an example of what this looks like we have calculated a sample carbohydrate intake for small eaters and bigger eaters.
The number of kilojoules and hence the amount of carbohydrate needed varies greatly between people. Your kilojoule requirements depend on your age, sex, activity level and body size. It is not possible to publish standard figures that will apply to every reader. If you want more information on your own specific kilojoule and carbohydrate needs, we suggest that you consult a dietitian. Dietitians can help you assess your kilojoule requirements and calculate exactly how much carbohydrate you need. Most of us don't need to keep count of the number of grams of carbohydrate we eat every day. But for some people, like athletes, it may be necessary to keep a watch to make sure that they are eating enough carbohydrate.
However, if you are looking at ways to improve your own diet there are two important things to remember:
1. Identify the sources of fat and look at ways you can reduce it. Don't go overboard-the body needs some fat in the diet
2. Check whether you need to add more carbohydrate to your diet and eat more. Most people don't eat enough.
Note: A low-fat diet is not appropriate for children under five years of age. They need the extra energy provided by fat for normal growth and development.
How to find a dietitian. If you want to consult a dietitian about your kilojoule requirements and how much carbohydrate you need, look in the Yellow Pages under Dietitians. Make sure that the person you choose has the letters APD after their name (Accredited Practising Dietitian).
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