What better time than the week before Thanksgiving to talk about carbohydrates…
Back in September, I was inspired to start a three-part series discussing the importance each of the three macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbohydrates and the roll they play in our lives after a good friend asked if I’d considered tracking and posting my daily protein consumption. I started off the series with Tracking Macronutrients: Getting Enough Protein and the following month I wrote Tracking Macronutrients: Choosing the Right Fats.
Up next of the three macronutrients is carbohydrates. When tracking my food intake on MyFitnessPal, I notice that carbs are often well represented in my diet and rarely fall below my recommended goal of 50%. On the particular day that I took this screen shot, my carbohydrate consumption was only 4% above my recommended percentage for that day which showed pretty good carb control for me.
Why Our Bodies Need Carbohydrates
The popularity of low-carb diets from Atkins to Keto have given carbohydrates a bad rap for the last twenty years. Despite the myth that carbs are bad for us, they are a vital part of a healthy diet; however, choosing the right carbs is pivotal in providing our bodies with the right type of energy. One of three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), carbohydrates are our bodies’ main source of energy. They provide fiber for a healthier digestive system, fuel many of the body’s organs, and help control blood cholesterol.
How Many Carbohydrates Do We Need?
Experts suggest that carbohydrate consumption should be around 45 to 65% of total daily calories – carbohydrates contain four calories per gram.
- • 2,000 calorie diet should include 900 to 1,300 calories (225 to 325 grams) of carbs per day
- • 3,000 calorie diet should include 1,350 to 1,950 calories (338 to 488 grams) of carbs per day
Individuals who fall victim to cutting carbs, and therefore do not consume enough carbohydrates may experience headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. This pattern of eating can lead to more serious issues including deficiencies of important vitamins and minerals.
Complex Versus Simple Carbs
There are two types of carbohydrates – complex and simple. Complex carbs are highly nutritious and include starches and fiber, whereas simple carbs are sugars which have had most of the nutrients and fiber removed. Complex carbs take longer to digest and provide for longer levels of energy while simple carbs are quickly digested and absorbed giving shorter bursts of energy.
Foods High in Carbohydrates
When choosing carbohydrates, except for special treats, choose complex over simple.
Complex carb choices include:
- Whole grains (oats, buckwheat, barley, and quinoa)
- Rice and whole grain pasta
- Legumes (beans and lentils)
- Dairy (yogurt, cheese, and milk)
Simple carb choices include:
- White bread
- White rice and pasta
- Fruit juices
- Soda, tea, and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Cakes, pies, and cookies
Even though we may try to avoid eating carbohydrates because we’re afraid they’ll contribute to unwanted weight gain, in reality, they’re essential to our health. The key is choosing nutritious complex carbs that will give us the energy we need and not falling victim to eating too many sugar-loaded simple carbs. As with all other things, the key is balance and learning what works for each of us.
- • What are your favorite carb sources?
- • Do you feel that you eat too many carbs?
- • Which macronutrient do you consume most? ~ I have a sweet tooth a mile long that I constantly have to reign in so I don’t eat so many sweets.