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Are You Lower-Carb Than You Think?


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how low is low carb
Fruits like blueberries, are a good option for a low carb diet. istock.com/BrianAJackson

We’ve talked before about the benefits and risks of low-carb and very low-carb diets. Laura, one of my staff nutritionists, wrote an article called “Is a Low-Carb Diet Ruining Your Health?”, and I followed up with an article called “7 Things Everyone Should Know About Low-Carb Diets.” Then Kelsey, my other staff nutritionist, wrote an article called “The 3-Step Process for Determining Your Ideal Carbohydrate Intake.”

Are you on an “accidental” very low-carb diet? Find out here:

The takeaway from all of these articles is relatively simple and uncontroversial—at least according to anthropological and clinical research:

  • Very low-carb (VLC) and ketogenic diets are useful therapeutic tools in certain conditions.
  • Some (but not all) people experience adverse effects from following VLC and ketogenic diets—especially when done over an extended period of time.
  • Very low-carb diets were extremely rare during the course of our evolution and are not the “default human diet” (as some have claimed).

Now, I want to address an issue that I see relatively frequently in my private practice. I’ve begun to think of it as the “accidental low-carb diet” phenomenon. The best way to explain this is to share a case study. 

The Accidental Low-Carb Diet: Frank’s Story

A few months ago I spoke to a patient—we’ll call him Frank. Frank is a 32-year old male who is on the SWAT team in a major metropolitan city. He came to see me complaining of extreme fatigue, insomnia, and exercise intolerance. These issues were obviously of paramount importance given his job.

About a year prior to our first visit Frank had started a low-carb Paleo diet. Some of his colleagues on the SWAT team were doing it with great results, so he figured he’d give it a try. He wanted to lean out and lose about 5 pounds of belly fat that he was having trouble getting rid of. After a few months on the low-carb Paleo diet, Frank did reach his target weight and body composition. 

But then the fatigue and insomnia started. A few months after that, he noticed he was having trouble keeping up with his training routine (which is, as you might imagine given his profession, quite rigorous). 

Frank reads my blog and listens to my podcast, and he had heard me say that some people can experience problems on a very low-carb diets. So he started to add some carbs back into his diet. This helped a little bit, but when he finally set up an appointment with me he was still struggling. 

When I talked to Frank, I asked him how he would characterize his diet. He said he used to do low-carb, but now he was on a moderate carb. I’ve learned over time not to accept this at face value, so I probed further. I asked him specifically how much carbohydrate he eats in the form of starchy plants and fruit (more on this below) on a daily basis. His answer: a sweet potato and about a half a cup of blueberries 3-4 times a week.

Although Frank thought he was on a moderate carbohydrate diet, when we did the math, it became clear he was on a very low-carb diet with fewer than 10% of calories from carbohydrate. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Frank is 6’3 and 215 pounds (with a lot of muscle). He is extremely active. In order to simply maintain his weight, he would need to eat about 3,000 calories a day.
  • If we define a moderate carbohydrate diet as 25% of calories from carbohydrate, that means Frank would need to eat 750 calories a day as carbohydrate. At 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, that comes out to about 188 grams of carb each day, or 1,316 per week.
  • A large sweet potato contains 37 grams of carbohydrate. 1/2 cup of blueberries contains about 10.5 grams of carbohydrate. In addition to these amounts of starch and fruit, Frank ate about 3-4 servings of nonstarchy vegetables each day (about 25 grams of carbohydrate on average). Given these numbers, Frank was eating about 365 grams of carbohydrate a week.

At 3,000 calories a day, this works out to about 7% of total calories from carbohydrate. That is most certainly not a moderate carbohydrate diet.

Do Carbs Cause Weight Gain? Frank’s Experience.

When I explained all of this to Frank at our appointment, he was pretty shocked. He was under the impression that eating a few sweet potatoes and some berries throughout the week put him in the “moderate carb” category. Obviously, this was not the case given his weight and activity level.

He was even more shocked when we calculated how much carbohydrate (again, from starchy plants and fruit) he’d have to eat to get to the “moderate” carbohydrate level of 25% of total calories. For Frank, to reach this target of 188 grams per day, he could eat the following:

  • Four servings of nonstarchy vegetables (25 grams)
  • One large Russet potato (64 grams)
  • One cup sliced cooked plantain (48 grams)
  • One medium banana (27 grams)
  • One cup of strawberries, halved (12 grams)
  • One half-cup of blueberries (11 grams)

This meant having a full serving of a starchy plant with two meals, and some fruit either with each meal or between meals—far more carbohydrate than Frank was eating previously.

Frank was initially reluctant to eat this much carbohydrate. He told me that he had noticed that carbs caused him to gain weight. But again, when we I dug a little deeper it became less clear that it was carbohydrate in general that caused weight gain, but a certain kind of carbohydrate (namely, processed and refined carbs). 

Turns out that Frank had very strong cravings for carbohydrate after a while on the VLC diet. Instead of increasing his intake of starchy plants and fruit, he’s stay extremely low-carb and then fall off the wagon by eating bread, pizza, or something like that. Not surprisingly, he would gain weight after these “indiscretions”. (Interestingly enough, he would also feel more energetic and sleep better afterwards.)

I asked Frank whether he gains weight when he eats carbs from whole-food, Paleo-friendly sources like starchy plants and fruit. He said he didn’t know, because he had never tried eating the quantities of these foods that I was recommending. So of course that became our next experiment. 

When I spoke to Frank about ten weeks later, he was ecstatic. His insomnia was completely resolved. His energy levels were not only restored, but higher than they’d been in recent memory. But what he was happiest about was his increased performance at work; Frank had recently placed highly in a national SWAT competition that his team competed in. 

What’s more, he accomplished all of this without gaining a single pound. On the contrary, he had lost a further 3 pounds of fat and was more “lean and ripped” than he had been on the VLC diet. 

If this had been an isolated experience with a single patient, I wouldn’t even bother writing this article. But in fact it’s a fairly common occurrence in my practice. I have every patient I see fill out a diet diary which shows me exactly what they eat on an average day. Then I ask them what their carbohydrate intake is like. I’d say about 50% of the time—if not more—my patients are consuming significantly less carbohydrate than they think they are

If you think you might fall into this category, you can use the guidelines below to calculate your optimal carbohydrate intake. 

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How to Calculate Your Carbohydrate Intake

The first important thing to understand is that it’s far more useful to think in terms of of percentage of calories for carbohydrate than it is to think in terms of grams per day. I often hear people make recommendations for the number of grams of carbohydrate someone should eat. But this is meaningless when you don’t take weight and activity level into account. 75 grams a day may be a moderate-carb diet for a sedentary woman eating 1,600 calories a day, but it would be a very low-carb diet for a highly active male eating 3,000 calories a day. 

The table below illustrates the ranges for “very low carb”, “low carb”, “moderate carb”, and “high carb” using percentage of calories for carbohydrate. I’ve also included examples for how many grams of carbohydrate an average, moderately active male and female might consume per day given those ranges, as well as a list of health conditions/goals that might do well for each range.

Carbbohydrate Intake Chart

In order to calculate your exact target range, follow these steps:

  1. Figure out how many calories you should eat per day. This depends on your height, weight, activity level, and goal (weight loss, maintenance, or gain). You can use any number of online calculators to get this information.
  2. Once you have your daily calorie intake, multiply that number by your target percentage of carbohydrate. So, if your daily calorie target is 2,000 calories and your target carb intake is 20%, multiply 2,000 by 0.2.
  3. Once you have the number of calories per day from carbohydrate you need to eat (from step 2 above), divide that by 4 to obtain the number of grams of carbohydrate you should eat. In this example, you’d divide 400 calories by 4 to get 100 grams. That is the number of grams of carbs you need to eat each day.
  4. With this number in mind, you can then consult the charts below, or use online tools like NutritionData.com, to figure out which foods you can eat to meet your goals.

If you’ve never done this before, I’d encourage you to give it a try. If you’re like many of my patients, you might be surprised to learn that you’re eating a lot less carbohydrate than you thought.




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Join the conversation

  1. I noticed that white rice is not mentioned, though plenty of people eat it. What’s your thoughts on small amounts of rice?

    • I think white rice is fine in moderation if it’s well-tolerated and doesn’t replace more nutrient dense foods. It’s mostly starch, which humans have a long history of eating.

  2. I really appreciate the tools and charts provided here to help calculate MY appropriate carb intake – I have terrible Hashimoto’s brain fog so this made it really easy for me!

    I don’t wanna gush Chris, but I just want you to know that your blog (along with Paleomom and a couple others) has become my “go-to” if I want well-rounded, BALANCED information with current science to back it – for me, I get the final word here on any topic with a lingering question mark. Thanks for all the myth busting and making all our healing journeys much less stressful, and much more doable!

  3. Great, informative and helpful article ( as always 🙂 thank you! It’s always somewhat challenging to balance carb intake when dealing with the common combination of dysbiosis and adrenal/thyroid issues. Could cycling between the two recommended ratios be enough to stimulate thyroid function/ unload adrenals while not feeding microbes too many carbs?

    • It’s possible. I sometimes recommend cyclical carb re-feeds and/or carbohydrate backloading, and they can be effective.

  4. Thanks for the great article. I’ve been on paleo diet for a year but haven’t been able to gain weight on it, so recently started eating grains again (no gluten as I have Celiac). I do feel more energized and stronger at the gym. My question is if grains like brown rice, and corn are ok- in terms of acceptable carbs that won’t necessarily make you gain fat. I understand white and processes starches do that- so really curious about whole grains, which you didnt mention in the article. Thanks!

  5. Hi
    So what is the best way to loose belly fat from a old habit of beer drinking ! ( dont drink now) cant shift the last 6.5lbs ?
    LCHF ? Paleo ?

  6. I do not lose weight. I am thirty kgs over. I live on green salad, protein and pretty much nothing else due to massive food reactions. If I follow the steps given I am only allowed to eat 12 gms of carb a day. I don’t think I would even get a meal if that is right. Can someone tell me if I got it wrong.
    55yr old, 86kgs, female, 50 to 75gm carb goal due to health issues, 1450cal daily intake required for me to lose any weight theoretically. 1450 x .034 = 49.3 divide by 4 = 12.32 gms of carb to eat = a cup of lettuce and an asparagus for the day!!!!

    • Bronwen think you have mixed up your maths. If your total cals is 1450 for weight loss and wanting to eat 34% carbs (assume this is where you got the 0.034 from). You need to multiply 1450 x 0.35 which is 507.5. If you divide this by 4 that is 126g of carbs. Think this is too high now. I think if you went for 20% carbs that would be 1450 x 0.2 divided by 4 would be 72g. Chris suggests 10-15% for weight loss so 10% would be 145.0 divided by 4 would be 36g carbs. 15% would be 54. Personally i stick to about 40g carbs for weight loss. I am 50 and weigh 78 kg. I have lost 2 kgs so far. Hope this helps

  7. I had an odd thing happen I was eating more carbs than I though 100g when I thought I was on a low carb diet. I increased them to 150g using sweet potato and such and my carb cravings got worse. I decided to formulate my low carb diet better dticking to less than 30g and after 3 days my carb cravings went away and I started losing weight again. Chris why am I like the opposite to normal people? If I eat carbs from sweet potato I get hungry and try to eat 5000-8000 calories. If I go ultra low carb I can stick to my 2000 calorie diet and lose 1lb per week with ease?

  8. Chris,

    Great article! One question though. Based on your book and previous articles, I thought carbs from non-starchy vegetables shouldn’t count towards total carb intake? In this article you made it seem like they do, in fact, count.

    • Hi Vlad,

      I do still think that nonstarchy veggies don’t make much of a contribution overall. The research on that isn’t bulletproof, and I wanted to make this article as clear as possible. As you can see, even if you count nonstarchy veggies, it’s likely you’d end up on a VLC diet if you only eat a small amount of starchy plants and fruit.

      • Hi Chris, I figured out my ideal grams of carbs from the equation you provided; I should eat about 63.75 grams of carbs (15%) to lose weight. If I eat an apple and a banana as my main carbs and then non-starchy veggies (adding the garbs from them too) for lunch and dinner with protein I easily go over the 63 grams. So I seem to have the opposite problem… eating more grams of carbs than I thought. How important is it to count the non-starchy veggies in the total count. I feel like if I do add them in I will be hungry (as I already am doing what I have been doing). I eat healthy fats, but can’t eat too much of them otherwise I seem to get a dull ache in my gallbladder. A bit lost as to how to lose weight and not be starving. Thanks for the great article!

        • I have the same issue as Therese. I can easily get to 100+g of carbs a day (and over 20% of daily calories) from non-starchy vegetables and a piece of fruit and a few nuts/seeds. I restrict starches to avoid fuelling my SIBO condition, gut parasite and ibs. And inspite of eating adequate carbs, I also have the issues you discuss in the article (hypothyroid, brain fog, very low energy). If I eat more calories, I put on weight. Any thoughts Chris? Thanks for a great series of articles on this topic!

  9. Although I see the merit in what you’re writing here, I am embarking on a keto journey, so to speak to a few conditions I struggle with…I believe that the high-fat diet of a keto diet will help rebalance my hormones (I have amenorrhea) and strengthen my immune system. For the last 4 years, I’ve had consistently low white blood cells, possibly as a result of previously being infected the Epstein Barr Virus. I believe and my naturopath believe that the lack of glucose, which is feeding this virus, might help to get rid of it “once and for all” (knowing that EBV doesn’t ever really go away)…but it does keep manifesting itself as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in me…

    Any thoughts?

    • I’m a big believer in experimentation, and as I’ve said often, there is a time and place for keto diets.

        • Hope you don’t mind me making a suggestion. I’ve had chronic fatigue issues for a while with terrible immunity. Much improved once I found my zinc and copper were not balanced optimally. The naturopath should be able to help you assess this and treat if applicable (usual testing is plasma zinc and serum copper – easy to test, need to be off these supplements if you’re on them for 4-5 days before testing). Even being on a Paleo diet one can have an imbalance. Take care.

          • According to a hair mineral analysis, my copper is low and my zinc is normal (normal zinc is also confirmed with blood work); however, my ratio for Zn:Cu is off. It should be between 4-20 (that is the reference range) and mine is 22.5.

            Any thoughts?

            and THANK YOU for your comment. I appreciate it.

    • Sophie,

      please reconsider your keto idea to get rid of EB virus. There has been said a lot about dangers of ketogenic dieting for women. You have amenorrhea and despite that you like to experiment on yourself, with the risk of candida setting in and making your symptoms even worse.

      Why don’t you eat healthy carbohydrate rich diet instead and address your EB virus with herbal remedies, and foods that help to heal?

        • Chris had info on one of his podcasts with another doctor that talked about evidence that candida can be fed by ketones. Most stories I read about people in keto say that their battle with yeast has been helped with keto. My chronic itching from yeast infections was cleared up by keto and taking interfase.

        • Sophie,

          Candida thrives on ketones. This is why I don’t recommend a ketogenic diet as a treatment for fungal overgrowth. I wouldn’t suggest a keto diet for treatment of chronic viral infections typically, either.

          • It’s funny. Being keto for much of year before re experimenting with carby foods again was the only thing that totally rid me of all candida finally after years of having it on and off. Even though candida can consume ketones (because like us, it is a eucharyotic organism), like us, it also has to adapt to that when it is used to feeding on glucose, and seems to be less efficient on ketones and cannot reproduce as fast, at least for a while….so keto with lots of coconut oil and including bone broths, adequate protein, combined with antifungals like berberine, and all at time of relative immune strength….I think that was the combo that did it for me.

          • You have to be careful with “scientific studies”. Many do not have proper test parameters especially ones about ketogenic diets. Most don’t even get the clients into ketosis (2 week study and ketosis take 2-4 weeks, that type of thing). In my practice I find the opposite to be true. Also, that study you site doesn’t mention beta hydroxybutyrate anywhere that I can see.

          • You have to be careful with “scientific studies”. Many do not have proper test parameters especially ones about ketogenic diets. Most don’t even get the clients into ketosis (2 week study and ketosis take 2-4 weeks, that type of thing). In my practice I find the opposite to be true. Also, that study you site doesn’t mention beta hydroxybutyrate anywhere that I can see.

    • Try reddit.com/r/xxketo and ask if anyone has experience with your issues. I’ve read some great success stories, but keto is not for everyone. I agree with Chris with self experimentation. I went keto, but then broke it for a cruise. I was feeling great on it.

  10. Love this carb series you are doing Chris! I was very low carb for 10 months and about 3 months in started experiencing terrible hypoglycemia like symptoms (although when i would check my blood sugar it would be normal), constant hunger, and what felt like reactive hypoglycemia. I never had BS issues before going LC! I am now at about 100 grams a day, have been for about 3 weeks. I’m still experiencing these symptoms to some degree although i think they have improved a bit. Have you ever heard of this happening on LC?? How long should it take for these symptoms to go away? Thanks so much for any insight!!!

    • Hi Christina,

      Yes, I’ve seen that happen before and it’s not entirely uncommon. Give it a few more weeks; I imagine the symptoms will resolve after eating more carbs for a while longer.

  11. Very useful information! Would you consider migraines as an “neurological issue”? I am on a ketogenic diet which seems to improve my migraines but wonder if I should up my carbs a little…

    • Have you read Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet? He addresses jhow to stay in ketosis while eating enough carbs. Basically, it requires supplementing MCT oil and/or BCAAs. He has an article on the migraine issue too on his website.
      Best wishes 🙂

    • I heard a fabulous talk at the 2014 Ancestral Health Symposium by a neurologist from Atlanta, Dr. Joshua Turknett, who is having great success treating migraines with diet and other environmental changes. I really recommend you check out his talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kii64XwKXac) and his Web site (http://www.dekalbneurology.com/meet-the-doctors/), which has stunning reviews of his book, The Migraine Miracle, and gratitude filled testimonials from the formerly afflicted.

  12. Great article Chris. Those charts are very helpful, thanks for sharing those as well.

    I think framing the whole piece around Frank’s story was really helpful. It’s easier when we have a reference to compare to. I’m a cyclist and I love experimenting with nutrition so I of course have tried a lot. I saw some great results when I eliminated a lot of bad carbs but at the same time I made the the mistake of not replacing the bad carbs with enough good carbs. After few months of low carb eating I added up one day’s worth of common meals that I eat and saw that I was eating far too little. I’ve since added more good carbs back into my diet.

    After some trial and error I’ve found that rotating through LCHF days, moderate to high carb days, and a 12-16hr. fast once a week works well for me.

    I think athletes, especially, are prone to having issues with going too low carb. If you don’t know how many carbs you are actually eating it’s a lot tougher, which is why I think those charts are so helpful.

    This series of articles has been great, so thanks again!

    • This is quite similar to me, keto with carb cycles for high intensity exercise (in my case HIIT and heavy lifting), And intermittent fasting for apoptosis and keeping lean.

      One thing I only realised lately is that glycogen storage is rate limited…I always assumed that I could fill the muscles with a big carb fest once or twice a week, but it never seemed to work. Now I am trying more regular refeeds, and so far so good. There is some evidence to suggest that few people can take up more than 60-80g of carbs in one meal and convert this to glycogen, which means if you are highly athletic and training every day and using that glycogen, you need to restock it pretty much daily and probably even more than 1x a day….it also means that if you eat bucketloads of carbs in one meal you will just store most of it as bodyfat.

      Check our Suppversity, a great blog written by a very clever German physicist who devours mountains of scientific articles constantly on exercise physiology, nutrition, muscle gain and fat loss. I have learnt a lot from him lately.

  13. I think you mean “…multiply that number by your target percentage of CARBOHYDRATES” (not calories)

    2.Once you have your daily calorie intake, multiply that number by your target percentage of calories. So, if your daily calorie target is 2,000 calories and your target carb intake is 20%, multiply 2,000 by 0.2.

  14. I’ve really enjoyed these carb info posts and I’m enjoying being able to contextualize the carb debates into my own experiences. I’m entering my final few weeks of pregnancy and have noticed that I’m craving more carbs. I’ve been trying to be careful about how many I eat while fully recognizing that I need more than I would if I wasn’t carrying and/or nursing a child. Even as I’ve increased potatoes and even had rice a couple of times a week (and I enjoy plenty of fruit in general), I had to idea I was consuming so little! My pregnancy is going very well, but now that I think of it, I realize that since I’ve added in these things, more out of cravings than anything, I’m not exhausted like I was a few weeks ago, and I’m still not gaining the crazy amount of weight I expected to when I started ‘letting’ myself eat these things. Processed versus whole food carbs sources make such a difference!

  15. Thanks for all you do Chris.

    Was wondering if most of your patients that are eating less carbohydrate than they think are coming to you on an eating strategy that is heavily hypocaloric.

    I know in Frank’s case it was probably better to get him on more starch due to the nature of his work, but for your other patients do you find that they are just not eating enough.

    My experience with ketogenic eating ended up horrendous.
    The knee jerk response for me was to put starch back in my diet which resolved the issues.

    However, when I look back at what I was eating I found I just wasn’t eating enough (ketogenic eating killed my appetite). Most days 600-800 calories under what I figure was my basal requirement.

    I’ve been experimenting with ketogenic eating again this time ensuring I get enough calories… primarily from coconut fats, but also avocados, egg yolks, and heavy cream. So far so good.

    • Yes, that is certainly a factor. Though in many cases just having them add more calories as fat will not solve the problems they’re experiencing.

  16. Great information! I wonder how resistant starches should be counted. I take about 20 grams of resistant starch, plus a green banana, each day. Do I include those carbs in my daily total?

    • Resistant starch would count towards fat calories since the gut bugs break it down to Butyrate, though I wouldn’t even bother counting those calories since they don’t add up to much. Green Banana’s would have some glucose and fructose I would imagine but I don’t think it would be tons; maybe 5-10 grams total.

  17. Thanks for this article — I’m so glad you’re doing these. I accidentally went *too* low carb after switching to a paleo diet, and didn’t realize it for months. I was losing weight (and wasn’t that big to start), and lost my period, but my energy levels were always high and I didn’t have any other symptoms. For a long time, I attributed the loss of period to something else. Finally, I actually counted up how many carbs I was eating in a day and my jaw almost dropped to the floor! I added a serving of plantain chips, sweet potatoes, or white rice to every meal, and started eating fruit more consistently, and in a couple of months my body returned to normal.

    • Yes, this is exactly why I’m writing this article. Your experience is all too common. Thanks for sharing.

      • I had the same problem, except with the addition of “Frank’s” symptoms of insomnia, fatigue, exercise intolerance and failure to recover. I also found out when I looked into it, that not only was I VLC, I was in an EXTREME calorie deficit. I was always full due to the meat and large quantities of non-starchy vegetables I was eating. Thanks again for this article, it helps me feel supported in my new adventures in higher carb eating!

  18. hi Chris,
    great article! I constantly read your blog, truly enjoyed your book and listen to your podcast every week as your nutritional advice has helped me immensely to overcome ulcerative colitis and have a healthy pregnancy.

    I have a question regarding carbs: you suggest >30% for pregnant and breastfeeding women and since I’ve gotten pregnant I’ve followed that advice (I was craving for starchy veggies anyways!) however, I also suffer from PCOS and I’m worried that once I give birth (I’m now 8mths pregnant) my PCOS symptoms will return if I don’t go back to low-moderate carbs to manage the blood sugar issues. what is your opinion? I’d obviously rather give my baby all the nutrition possible thru healthy carbs but i’m worried that PCOS is also linked with low milk supply so wouldn’t want to have it unchecked.
    ps: I really enjoyed Laura & Kelsey’s podcast on how to deal with conflicting carbs recommendations (sibo vs adrenals) but i’m still at loss on the breastfeeding vs pcos one.
    pss: you HAVE to visit the Dominican Republic!!! we LOVE plantains to the point of adoration, and other starchy veggies such as yucca and sweet potatoes are also a big part of the traditional diet. we even have a stewed dish called “sancocho” with 7 types of meats and 5 types of starchy veggies that i’m certain you’d like. sorry for the long comment, first time I ever ask a question and I really wanted to thank you for all the good work you do. all the best,

    • Hi Maria,

      Probably best to wait and see what happens after you give birth. When you’re nursing your dietary requirements are often different than they were prior to conceiving and being pregnant, so you may do well with more carbs during that time as well.

      I’d love to come to the Dominican Republic at some point. I’m planning an article about 9 different ways to eat plantains soon. Perhaps you can leave your “sancocho” recipe in the comments section!

      • Thanks for replying Chris!!
        Ah, 9 ways of eating plantains in Dominican Republic is like asking an Irish for 9 ways to eat potatoes 🙂
        – “Mangú” is the traditional breakfast of boiled green plantains, later mashed with olive oil and butter and toped with sauteed onions. It’s usually eaten with bacon and scrambled eggs.
        – “Tostones” is fried green plantains, you slice them thickly, fry them and then squash them before doing a second fry.
        – “Mofongo” is fried green plantains that are then mashed and mixed with bacon and fat and served for dinner.
        – “Sancocho” is the stew typical of important events that’s served with white rice and avocados (here’s a good recipe: http://www.dominicancooking.com/125-sancocho-de-7-carnes-7-meat-hearty-stew.html I’m sorry to post someone else’s recipe but my grandma’s idea of giving me her recipe is to simply say “add plantains, herbs and meats”.
        – “Pastelon” is ripe plantains mashed with a bit of butter and milk and then used to put together a Pyrex dish with meat like a cottage pie or shepherds pie.
        – “platanos al almibar” is a dessert of really ripe platains sauteed in butter and then sugar added with cinnamon sticks until they cook in a syrup.
        – “platanitos” is green plantains sliced so thinly that when you fry them once they taste like crips.
        – “platanos al horno” is when you wrap the ripe plantains in aluminium foil and stick them in the oven to bake.
        – “pasteles en hoja” is the classic Christmas side dish (and my all-time favourite) but it’s extremely complicated to make as you boil the plantains, then grate them into a paste, make a pastry that will wrap a filling of seasoned meats and then wrapped again by plantain tree leaves. After wrapped they are left to rest for a day or so and then boiled before serving.
        What can I say… You have to visit the Dominican Republic! 🙂
        Ps: the sad thing is that on the late 80s when import duties were lifted on imported goods American corn flakes became popular and suddenly the traditional diet changed… But still now plantains are such a big part of the culture that we even have phrases such as “platano power” to refer to physically strong men.
        Best wishes,

        • Maria,
          Thanks for the wonderful list of plantain recipes! We LOVE plantains and they are so kind to a frazzled digestive system too!

        • Thank you so much for all these recipes! I LOVE plantains and look forward to making some of these very soon!

        • Maria, speaking of plantains, I was in Jamaica recently and had a lovey porridge made with them. It was served for breakfast, very creamy. Since I miss hot cereal due to a lower carb diet..I was wondering how they make it so creamy like that? It could of been a mix, through I’ve never seen a plantain (flour) or mix…any ideas?
          Thanks, Carrie

      • The Institute of Medicine of the The National Academy recommends a minimum 135 carbohydrate grams for all adults with the exception of 175 for pregnancy and 210 for lactation in order to meet the needs of the central nervous system including the brain.


        Their recommended daily carbohydrate range is 45% – 65% which is much higher than what Chris recommends.

        It’s important to understand that The Institute of Medicine, The American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association all follow these general guidelines.

        This means in comparison to mainstream medicine, even Chris’s “high carb” recommendation is considered “low carb.”

        I think Chris has it just about right. While some people have done well on extreme low carb diets, (including me) the pendulum may have swung too far for people who are not overweight, diabetic or prediabetic.

        When you are in the middle like Chris, you get attacked from both sides.