How Carbohydrates Fit Into a Healthy Diet

Updated: Dec 17, 2020


Carbohydrates ? What are they?

Your body’s main energy source, the main power units for your body cells, particularly the brain which is a carbohydrates dependent organ. Energy is needed for all your body functions such as breathing, thinking, running, sleeping, and even digesting food.

All Carbohydrates are formed from the same elements; carbon – hydrogen, that make up the sugar units. Simple carbohydrates are made up of one to two sugar units. Examples: sugar in fruits, honey, and table sugar. Complex carbohydrates are made up of a long chain of sugar units (scientifically: polysaccharides).

Starch fiber are complex carbohydrates, they are mostly found in grains, legumes and starchy vegetables. Examples: wheat, oats, corn, rice, beans, potatoes, lentils.. etc.

All carbohydrates are digested and broken down by enzymes to the simplest sugars/one sugar units (scientifically: monosaccharides) before they can be absorbed into your blood stream from the digestive system. Simple sugar units spread through your bloodstream into your body cells where they are converted to energy.

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate it is not broken down by enzymes to simple sugar units, and that is what makes fiber healthy in a unique way! It delays the emptying of ingested foods, helps in reaching the sensation of fullness without overeating, interferes with the absorption of fat and cholesterol which may help in the management of blood cholesterol and fat levels, the delay in gastric emptying helps also in the reduction of after-meal blood sugar levels.


How much do you need per day?


Based on the minimum amount of glucose used by the brain, The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is set at 130g/day for adults and children. The amount of carbohydrates allowance is usually more than that, to cover the total energy needs per day while also consuming the recommended amounts of protein and fat.

For Fiber: the Adequate Intake (AI) per day for men and women (19 to 50 years old) is set at 38g and 25g per day respectively.


Based on the American dietary guidelines: 45 to 65% of your total daily energy requirements (total calories) should come from carbohydrates.

Example: in a 2000 Kcal diet, 900 to 1300 Kcal should come from carbohydrates, which equals 225g to 325 g of carbohydrates per day. The rest of your daily energy needs should be met by fat and protein.


How to find carbohydrates content of food products and how to know how much carbohydrates to eat in a single meal will be covered in the next carbohydrates post.




 

References:

1- Duyff, Roberta Larson. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Fifth edition. Boston ; New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. Print.

2- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed Nov. 6, 2016

3- National Academies of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients).


Disclaimer: The contents of this Nutritionally Aware Website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or Dietitian or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Nutritionally Aware does not recommend or endorse any products.

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