Nutrition: The Role of Carbohydrates

In recent years, carbs have replaced fat as the scapegoat in weight gain. Low-carb and no-carb diets have come into fashion. The problem is that carbohydrates are necessary to good health and nutrition. The body uses carbs to create glucose, which provides your system with energy. Carbohydrates essentially fuel the body.

The Types of Carbohydrates

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs are foods high in both natural and added sugars. They break down quickly and tend to be higher in calories with less nutritional value. Fruits are a natural source of simple carbs, but any processed food that contains extra sugar, or any form of sugar is included in this category. These foods include sodas, candy, baked goods such as cakes and cookies, and even white bread.

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, take longer to break down and include starches and dietary fiber. These types of carbs include foods such as potatoes, rice, breads, grains and many vegetables. The key to getting the healthy complex carbs is to choose foods made with whole grains. This means choosing whole wheat bread instead of white or brown rice rather than white rice.

Because these foods take longer for your body to break down, they will keep you feeling full longer, which can curb overeating and keep your calorie intake in check. They will also give you extended energy rather than the quick bursts of energy provided by simple carbs.

Whole grains are also a healthier choice because they have not been processed or refined, and all of their nutritional content is intact. Some refined grains have the nutrition added back in after processing, and these are called enriched grains. Although a healthier choice than those that have not been enriched, you are still better off going with the natural whole grain. Enriched grains will not be able to provide you with the same amount of dietary fiber or have the other benefits of eating whole grains.

There is a place for simple carbs in a healthy diet, but try to get them from natural sources such as fruit which also provide nutritional benefits. Foods with added sugars should be an occasional treat.

How Much Should You Eat?

The right amount of carbohydrates ranges from 45-65% of your diet. This means that you should be eating more carbohydrates than either protein or fat. However, these carbs should mostly be in the form of complex carbohydrates.

With your intake of carbs each day, you should aim to ingest the appropriate amount of dietary fiber. The right amount for you depends on the number of calories you are eating each day. If you are eating the correct carbs, it shouldn’t be difficult to meet your body’s fiber needs. Spread the fiber out over the day so that you can stay full and prevent overeating of other, less healthy foods. You will find that when you are consuming the correct amount of fiber, you won’t have much room in your diet for unhealthy foods.

While low-carb diets will probably be successful in helping you to lose weight, in the long run it is not a healthy diet. You will be robbing your body of necessary energy. Choosing instead to cut simple carbs from your diet and continuing to fuel your body with healthy, whole grain choices will result in not only a healthier body weight, but also more energy.

Leave a Reply