Should You Get Rid Of Carbs? how carbohydrates can be part of a healthy diet

Carbohydrates are not bad, but some may be healthier than others. Find out why carbohydrates are important to your health and which ones you should choose.

Carbohydrates often have a bad reputation, especially when it comes to weight gain. However, not all carbohydrates are bad. Because of their countless health benefits, carbohydrates have earned a place in your diet. In fact, your body needs them to function properly.

However, some carbohydrates may be more recommended than others. Learn more about carbohydrates and how to choose healthy carbohydrates.

how carbohydrates can be part of a healthy diet

Carbohydrate Information

Carbohydrates are a type of macro-nutrient found in many foods and beverages. Most of them are found in nature in plant-based foods, such as cereals. Food manufacturers also add carbohydrates in the form of starch or sugar added to processed foods.

Frequent sources of natural carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Milk
  • Walnuts
  • Cereals
  • Seeds
  • Pulses

Types of carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

Sugar. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and is found naturally in some foods, such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and dairy products. Some types of sugar are fruit sugar (fructose), common sugar (sucrose), and milk sugar (lactose).

Starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, which means that it is made up of many units of sugar bound together. Starch is found naturally in dried and cooked vegetables, grains, and beans and peas.

Fiber. Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. It is found naturally in dried and cooked fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and peas.

More carbohydrate-related terms: net carbs and glycemic index

Terms such as "low carbohydrate" or "net carbohydrate" often appear on product labels. However, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate these terms, so they do not have a standard meaning. Generally, the term "net carbohydrates" is usually used to refer to the amount of carbohydrates a product has without including fiber or without including fiber and sugar alcohols.

You've probably also heard about the glycemic index. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise blood sugar levels.

Weight-loss diets based on the glycaemic index often recommend restricting foods that have a high glycaemic index. Foods that have a high glycemic index are potatoes and white bread, and unhealthy choices such as snacks and desserts containing refined flours.

Many healthy foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products, naturally have a lower glycemic index.

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How many carbohydrates do you need?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates form 45 to 65 percent of total daily calorie intake.

So, if you eat 2000 calories a day, you'll have to eat between 900 and 1300 calories a day from carbohydrates. This translates to 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrate per day.

You can find information about the carbohydrate content of packaged foods on the Nutrition Facts label. The label indicates the total carbohydrate content, which includes starches, fiber, sugar alcohols, and natural and added sugars. The label may also indicate the total amount of fiber, soluble fiber, and sugar separately.

Carbohydrates and Your Health

Despite their bad reputation, carbohydrates are essential to your health for a variety of reasons.

They provide energy

Carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel. During digestion, sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars. They then enter the bloodstream, where they are called "blood sugar" (blood glucose).

From there, glucose enters the body's cells with the help of insulin. The body uses glucose to produce energy and drive all activities, whether it's jogging or just breathing. The extra glucose is deposited in the liver, muscles, and other cells for later use or converted to fat.

Protection against disease

According to some evidence, whole grains and dietary fibre from whole foods help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fiber can also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. In addition, fiber is essential for optimal digestive health.

Weight control

Evidence shows that eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help control weight. Volume and fiber content help control weight by making you feel full with fewer calories. Unlike low-carbohydrate diets, very few studies show that a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity.

Choose carbohydrates wisely

Carbohydrates are fundamental to a healthy diet and provide many important nutrients. However, not all carbohydrates are made the same way.

Here's how to incorporate healthy carbohydrates into a well-balanced diet:

  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables rich in fibre. Look for whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar. Other options are fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have more calories. Whole fruits and vegetables also provide fiber, water and volume, which helps you feel more satisfied with fewer calories.
  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, than refined cereals. Refined cereals go through a process that removes certain parts of the grain, as well as some of the nutrients and fiber.
  • Eat low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, as well as many other vitamins and minerals. Consider low-fat versions to limit calories and saturated fat. And beware of dairy products that have added sugar.
  • Eat more legumes. Legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, are among the most versatile and nutritious foods out there. They are generally low in fat and high in folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium, and contain beneficial fats and fibers. Legumes are a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Limit your intake of added sugar. Added sugar is probably not harmful in small amounts. However, consuming added sugar, in any amount, has no health benefit. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting your intake of added sugar to less than 10 percent of the calories you eat every day.

So choose carbohydrates wisely. Limit foods with added sugar and refined cereals, such as sugary drinks, desserts and sweets, which are high in calories but low in nutrition. Instead, eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

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