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Do you know your body uses carbohydrates as its primary source of energy to perform its daily tasks, and that they are essential for maintaining your overall health and wellness?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that fuel your body.

Carbohydrates are made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon which act a source of energy for your body’s various needs.

And, there are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs easily are digested and quickly converted into glucose, while complex carbs are absorbed slowly into your body.

Carbs are found in many foods, both in their natural forms and as added ingredients in processed foods.

In this blog post, we will take a look at what carbohydrates mean and how they impact your health, both positively and negatively.


What Are Total Carbohydrates?

Total carbohydrates refer to the sum of all the different types of carbohydrates found in food, namely sugars, starches and fibers.

It is important to consider the total carbohydrates present in foods when making your dietary decisions.

The total carbohydrate content of a food is typically listed on the nutrition facts label and is expressed in grams.

The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates varies depending on factors such as your age, sex, weight and activity level. But your daily intake of total carbs lies between 45 and 65 percent of your total daily calorie requirement.


What Are The Types of Carbohydrates?

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars 
  • Starches 
  • Fibers

If you are a person who is particular about carbohydrate counting, then you must know about these types in some detail.

Sugars

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate, composed of either one or two sugar molecules. They are called monosaccharides and disaccharides.

Monosaccharides are composed of one sugar molecule and are thus referred to as the “simple” sugars, such as glucose, fructose and galactose.

Disaccharides are composed of two sugar molecules and include sucrose and lactose.

Sugars are commonly found in a variety of food items, including fruits, sweets and processed products.

Starches

Starch is a complex carbohydrate consisting of long chains of carbohydrate molecules (polysaccharide), which is the primary form of carbohydrate stored in your body.

It can be derived from various food sources, including potatoes, grains and legumes.

In your digestive system, starch is broken down into glucose, providing energy for your body.

Fibers

Fibers are a type of complex carbohydrate. Most of the dietary fiber you consume passes through your intestines undigested.

They are largely found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is important to obtain a sufficient amount of fiber in your diet, since it contributes to your digestive health and helps prevent constipation.

Fiber can also be beneficial in the regulation of your blood sugar levels as well as in the lowering of your cholesterol levels.

There are two forms of fiber: soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve.


Simple vs Complex Carbs: Which is Good?

All you have to know is the essential difference between simple and complex carbohydrates, and to choose the one that implies good health.

Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as white bread, candy etc. These foods are broken down quickly by your body, and can cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar levels.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are largely found in whole grains, legumes and vegetables. These foods are broken down more slowly by your body, which helps keep your blood sugar levels stable.

For this reason, it is generally advised that you get most of your energy needs from complex carbs. Complex carbs are filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber, making them a far better option than simple carbs.


Recommended Daily Intake

Your recommended daily intake of carbohydrates depends on a variety of factors such your age, gender and activity level.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get between 45 and 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates.

For a 2000-calorie diet, this would mean consuming between 225 and 325 grams of carbs per day.

Consider these recommendations only as broader guidelines, and it is more appropriate for you to consult with your nutritionist for more tailor-made recommendations that suit your specific needs.


Sources of Carbohydrates: Natural vs Refined

Natural sources of carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, are generally healthier than refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and processed snacks.

Natural sources of carbs contain beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals in good measure.

Refined carbs, on the other hand, are usually low in nutrients and high in added sugars. They are often a source of empty calories which can result in your weight gain.

Always choose your carbs from natural sources as far as possible, and such choices can go a long way in improving your health markers for the better.


The Glycemic Index and its Importance in Carbohydrate Selection

An image of a notebook page on which is written names of food items both low and high in Glycemic Index for carbohydrates.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrates in your food are broken down into glucose and released into your bloodstream.

High GI foods, such as white bread, break down quickly and cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar levels.

Low GI foods, such as whole grains and legumes, break down more slowly and cause a slower, more sustained rise in your blood sugar. This makes them a better choice for people with diabetes, as they can help regulate blood their sugar levels.

The GI also has implications for your weight loss, as low GI foods are more filling and can help reduce your cravings.

If you consider health as a priority, select your carbs that are low on the GI scale. This means opting for more whole grain, oats, quinoa and brown rice in your diet.

A diet low in Glycemic Index is an important part of maintaining your optimal weight and managing your diabetes.


Low Carbs Diets: Pros and Cons

Low carbohydrate diets could help you lose your weight and improve your health. However, there are both pros and cons that should be considered before choosing them.

Pros:

  • Weight loss is achieved quickly
  • Can help improve overall health
  • Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Cons:

  • Can cause headaches and fatigue
  • Can cause muscle cramps
  • Nutrient deficiencies can occur
  • Can cause constipation

Your tryst with low carb diet should be based on your exact needs and preferences. Consult your doctor or nutritionist, and consider the pros and cons before starting your low carb diet.


The Role of Carbohydrates in Weight Management

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy, and in order to lose your weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means you need to consume fewer calories than you burn.

Carbs provide your body with the energy it needs to burn your calories and they can help you feel full longer. This, in turn, helps you maintain an ideal weight.

But choosing the right carb for you is the key.

Complex carbs, such as whole grains and vegetables, are digested more slowly and provide more sustained energy than simple carbs, such as sugars and processed grains.

A diet balanced diet in complex carbs can aid your weight loss and keep your energy levels up. And probably, your cheers too!


How to Incorporate Healthy Carbs into Your Diet

If you’re looking to incorporate healthy carbohydrates into your diet, there are a few things you should keep in your mind.

The first is to focus on whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and barley. These provide complex carbs that are rich in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.

You should also include fruits and vegetables in your diet, as these are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas are also a great source of healthy carbs and also provide you with additional protein.

You must try to limit your intake of refined carbs like white bread, pasta and white rice. These lack the nutritional value of whole grains and can lead to spikes in your blood sugar.

A balanced diet in complex carbs can make you much more healthy than you can possibly imagine.


Summary

Carbohydrates are a fundamental component of your nutrition, supplying your body with its primary energy source.

They are divided into two main categories: simple and complex carbs.

It is essential to be aware of your daily recommended intake of carbs as it varies based on many different factors such as your age, gender and activity level.

Also, the effect of different carbs on your blood sugar levels is measured by the glycemic index, which must also be taken into account when selecting the types of carbohydrates you wish to consume daily.


 

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Sources: MedlinePlus, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Cleveland Clinic, Medical News Today, Mayo Clinic, NCBI, American Diabetes Association, Verywell Fit.

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