Maybe you’re trying out a carb-free diet, when in fact you might need some of those in your life. Geneticist Dr. Sharon Moalem devised a simple take-at-home test so you can find out exactly how many carbs you need in your diet.
Dr. Moalem realized that there are people in the world who can assimilate carbs more efficiently and this happens because of something called copy number variations, or CNVs. Until recently, scientists thought that each one of us inherits a gene from each parent, so we had two copies of every gene. Thanks to CNV’s, some people might have inherited multiple copies of genes. This can be an advantage when you eat certain things and it’s certainly the same when it comes to how many carbs you need in your diet. The findings are published in Moalem’s book, “The DNA Restart”.
Carbs work for some people in beneficial ways, he says, because they come from ancestors who relied a lot on starches, farmers who grew and ate cereals. Those people have inherited multiple copies of the gene that the body uses to make the protein amylase, called AMY1. Some of them might have 20 copies of amylase and can digest plenty of starches. Others have fewer copies, or maybe even none and will have problems digesting it.
How do you find out how many carbs you need?
It boils down to how much amylase is in your saliva, so the test Dr. Moalem devised relates to that. It takes three minutes, a box of crackers, and just the ability to observe what happens with your taste. Choose crackers which are unsalted, or cream crackers, or water biscuits, and a timer.
The test will show you which of the three carbohydrate processing categories you fall into: Full, Moderate or Restricted. You will get this information by the number of seconds it takes for a difference in taste from-bland-to-sweet to take place when you’re chewing the cracker. If you never detect a difference in taste, that’s normal too.
The test: how many carbs do you need?
Place the cracker in your mouth, start the timer aaaand chew! You need to pay close attention, because the starch in the cracker may already be starting to be digested by amylase in your saliva. Don’t swallow. As soon as you observe a change in taste, even a subtle one, or if you reach 30 seconds while timing, stop chewing and note the time. Rerun the test twice more for accuracy. Calculate the average time so you can find out what your carb type is.
The number of seconds it takes for the taste to change dictates your carb type:
Full carb type. You have a natural predisposition for carbs. You can have up to 50 percent of your calories coming from carbs, 20 percent from protein and 30 percent from fats.
Moderate carb type. Your body finds carbs harder to process. You can have up to 35 percent of your calories coming from carbs, 30 percent from protein and 35 percent from fats.
More than 30 seconds
Restricted carb type. Your body finds carbs hard to process. You should have no more than 25 percent of your calories coming from carbs, 35 percent from protein and 40 percent from fats.
But remember: just because your body processes carbs easily, that doesn't mean you should overdo it with the bad carbs. They're still bad for anybody, you included.