Eating carbohydrates often gets a negative rap, especially when it comes to weight gain. However, carbohydrates aren’t bad at all. In fact, they are one of the three macronutrients that our bodies need for optimal health. Carbohydrates have a place in your diet, but it is important to understand that some carbohydrates are better for you than others and how to choose the healthiest ones.
What do carbohydrates do in our bodies?
Carbohydrates provide energy and are our body’s main fuel source. During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars. Then, they are absorbed into your bloodstream where they affect the level of sugar in your blood (known as your blood glucose or blood sugar levels). They are used to fuel your body’s activities and the extra glucose is stored in your liver or muscles for later use.
Eating whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods may help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Eating enough fiber – a type of carbohydrate that is in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked beans – may also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health.
How Many Carbohydrates do you need?
The Dietary Guidelines recommend that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your total daily calories. This number is specific to each individual and will be higher when beginning a fat loss journey as you are boosting your metabolism to work as efficiently as possible. An example of this is if you eat 2,000 calories per day, aim for your carbohydrates to be about 900-1,300 calories of your total. This would amount to 225-325 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Be Mindful of Carbohydrate Types
While we need carbohydrates in our diet, it is important to remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal. In order to have the healthiest forms of carbohydrates in your diet, focus on eating whole fruits and vegetables (including canned ones without added sugar). Remember that whole grains are a better option than refined grains as refined grains are taken through a process that takes out some of the nutrients and fiber.
Keep in mind that you want to limit added sugar in your day. Although many foods contain added sugar, and it is okay to have them in small amounts, you want to be sure you are not intaking too much. Exceeding the recommended amount of less than 10 percent of your calories from added sugar may lead to weight gain and risk for other diseases. Limiting foods with added sugars and refined grains is the best way to focus on getting the best carbohydrate sources.