There are people who are not sure what carbohydrates really are, how many carbohydrates are necessary in their daily diet and which of them are considered healthy.
Carbohydrates are the foods that the body uses to make glucose. There are two types of carbohydrates that provide the “fuel” for the body: complex and simple.
The right kind of carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates include starch and fiber. Both substances have to be broken down by digestion before the body can use them.
Where can you find starch and fiber? Starch occurs in:
• dry beans
Fiber can be found in:
• full grain
Simple carbohydrates are sugars that occur naturally in certain foods. They can also be added to some foods during processing. But be careful: foods with added sugar contain fewer nutrients than foods with natural sugar.
Not sure what to look for? Read nutritional labels carefully. If you find the following, you’ll know they’re simple carbs:
• corn sweetener
• Brown sugar
• corn syrup
• Concentrated fruit juice
• High Fructose Corn Syrup
• malt syrup
• raw sugar
It is better to get your carbohydrate intake from complex carbohydrates or natural sugars than from simple carbohydrates. Refined or added sugars, i.e. simple carbohydrates, should be avoided if possible, as these foods provide calories but very few nutrients.
Depending on your age and gender, your carbohydrate needs will differ slightly. According to general guidelines, the recommended daily fiber intake for men 50 and under is 38 grams and for women 25 grams. Men over 50 should consume 30 grams per day, women over 50 should consume 21 grams. This change is due to the decreasing need for nutrients with age.
This makes it easier to eat the right carbohydrates
Eating the right carbs in the right amounts is easier said than done. Below are some tips to help you find the “right way”:
To ensure you’re only consuming carbohydrates from the best possible sources, avoid sugary drinks and opt for whole fruits instead of fruit juice. Also, sweet potatoes are much better suited to people’s carbohydrate needs than white potatoes. It’s also helpful to eat pasta, whole grains, and oatmeal as much as possible. Brown rice and barley are also good choices.
Also, learn how to “structure” your meal on your plate.
• First, divide your plate in half. Then divide one half into two more parts, so your plate is divided into three parts in total.
• Fill the large area with non-starchy veggies. These include spinach, carrots, lettuce, green beans, cabbage and mushrooms.
• Fill one of the two small sections with grains like whole wheat bread, pasta, or brown rice.
• Fill the other small portion of your plate with protein. This can be skinless chicken or turkey, fish (tuna, salmon, cod) or lean beef.
• Add a small portion of fruit or dairy.
• Finally, you can enjoy a low-calorie drink such as water, unsweetened tea or coffee.
Why do you need carbohydrates?
If you’re trying to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, you should be careful. The human body needs carbohydrates. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can include:
• tiredness or weakness
It’s best to follow a diet plan that focuses on an overall healthy diet rather than restricting carbohydrates. Diets like Paleo can also help you lose weight, but they can lead to nutrient deficiencies. It is always best to consult your doctor or nutritionist before committing to any weight loss diet plan.