You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about carbohydrates in the past few years, and it can get pretty confusing. Are they good for you? Bad for you? Just what are carbohydrates anyway?
The truth is, carbohydrates are necessary for your good health, and they’re your body’s main source of energy. Choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates, along with controlling your total calorie intake, may also help you maintain a healthy weight and help decrease the risk of certain diseases.
Carbohydrates can take the form of fiber, starch, or sugar, and include things such as: bagels, tortillas, kiwi fruit, baked beans, yogurt, and potatoes. Yet all carbohydrates can be divided into 2 main types—simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates:These are sugars, which are found in candy, sweets, and soft drinks. They tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients. Cutting down on sweet foods and drinks can lower your calorie intake. It also may help with weight control.
Complex carbohydrates:As the name suggests, these carbohydrates have a more complicated makeup than simple carbohydrates. They include starches and fiber. Cereal, pasta, rice, vegetables, and fruits are all complex carbohydrates. Many are low in calories and high in fiber.
These carbohydrates are often called the “good” carbs, and simple sugars are sometimes called “bad” carbs. But too much of either type can lead to too many calories—and weight gain.
Getting plenty of carbohydrates in the form of fiber is especially important. Nutritionists recommend that you try to get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you take in each day. Research has shown that diets rich in fiber may help with weight loss or weight control and may decrease the risk of heart disease and other diseases. Good fiber sources include whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables.
How many carbs do I need every day?
As a general rule, carbohydrates should make up about one-half to two-thirds of all the calories you take in daily. However, it’s important to talk to your health care professional about the amount of carbohydrates you need and what kinds are right for you.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, diets that call for very low or very high amounts of carbohydrates are likely to result in low amounts of other important nutrients. Therefore, these diets are not recommended for the long term, even if they help you lose a little weight in the short term.
All the more reason to stay with a smart eating plan that includes the following:
- More complex carbohydrates such as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Fewer simple carbohydrates such as candy, table sugar, and soft drinks
- About one-half to two-thirds of total calories from carbohydrates each day
Now that’s a healthy eating plan that makes perfect sense.