Carbohydrates (carbs) are often talked about like the enemy. When in fact, they are vital to your diet. Carbs give you energy, improve digestion, promote heart health, and help control hunger. As your body’s main source of fuel, it is essential to consume enough carbs to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
Contrary to what many believe, carbs are not inherently fattening. Eating the right carbs actually aids in weight loss because the high amount of fiber decreases your hunger levels. Weight gain can occur with regular intake of “bad” carbs or over-consumption of “good” carbs.
Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs
Good Carbs: Good carbs are high in fiber, making you feel full longer. They also take longer to digest and keep your blood sugar stable. Examples: whole grain pasta, fruit, vegetables, beans.
Bad Carbs: Bad carbs are processed and refined foods, which have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients. They are digested quickly, causing blood sugar spikes, low energy, and hunger. Bad carbs can lead to weight gain and an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. Examples: white breads, white pasta, added sugars.
Grocery shopping tips:
Whenever possible buy fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Always check the food label! Advertising can try to trick you into believing you are buying a healthy cracked wheat bread when the ingredients list shows they used enriched wheat flour. Look for “whole” at the beginning of the ingredients list (i.e. whole grain flour, whole wheat).
Try to avoid added sugars. This doesn’t mean you have to lead a completely sugar free diet. The World Health Organization recommends that added sugars make up 10% or less of you daily caloric intake. So you can still indulge your sweet tooth in moderation!
Calculating Your Daily Carbohydrate Intake
Carbs should make up 45-65% of your daily calories. You can calculate this using the following formula:
Daily calorie intake x percentage of carbs = daily calories of carbs
2,000 calories x 0.45 = 900 calories from carbs
900 calories divided by 4 *= 225 grams of carbs
*There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate.
2,000 calories x 0.65 = 1,300 calories from carbs
1,300 divided by 4* = 325 grams of carbs
A person with a daily calorie intake of 2,000 should consume between 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrate.
Muth, N. D., & Zive, M. M. (2015). Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.