Carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods, from homemade whole-grain bread to candies that you eat on Valentine's Day. And while all carbs will give your body the components it needs to make energy, not all carbs will support your health in the same way.
Carbohydrates, even healthy carbs, have been deemed a weight-gain culprit by many trendy diets. But carbohydrates are not the villain nutrient that many people are led to believe and are the body's primary fuel source. Your body depends on you eating enough carbohydrates to be able to function properly. By eliminating carbs from your diet, you run the risk of feeling sluggish, having heart-health challenges and even increasing your risk of certain cancers. Among the three macronutrients - protein, fat and carbohydrates - the body prefers to use carbohydrates as its primary fuel source, especially if you exercise or athletic. It can use protein and fat as fuel too, but the process is much less efficient, and will only take place when carbohydrate stores in the body (glycogen) are used first.
Carbohydrates can often be differentiated by whether they're made up mostly of whole-food sources or of ingredients that have been processed and refined; many contain a mix of both. Whole-food-based carbs, or "complex carbohydrates,"are typically higher in fiber and contain a good amount of vitamins and minerals. These should make up the bulk of your carb intake. Examples of these healthier carbs include whole grains, fruit with skin and beans.
Refined carbs called, "simple carbohydrates," consists mostly of white flour, sugar, and are void of nutrients. Most have to be enriched by adding vitamins and minerals. Eating too many of these carbs may result in a spike in blood sugar, and they do not offer much nutritionally. Candies, cookies, white bread and soda are examples of refined carbs.
Despite what many trendy diets suggest, carbs should be included in your diet if you are trying to support your health. The "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025," recommends that 45% to 65% of their total daily calories come from carbs. So, if you are eating 2,000 calories a day, then you should be eating about 900 to 1,300 calories a day in carbs. Choosing healthy carbs is essential to helping your body feel satisfied, keeping your bowel movements regular, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, and reducing your risk of developing certain diseases.
There are lots of carbohydrate-containing foods out there. The key is to focus on choices that contain fiber, have a high nutrition content, and have other factors that support your overall health. Spread them throughout the day to keep your energy and mood up.
Suggested complex carbs to add to your diet:
Whole Grain Pasta