How often do you find yourself saying “It’s time to cut back on the carbs”? Most people find themselves thinking this as they munch down on their favorite snack. There is a common misconception that carbs are bad for you, and you should avoid them at all costs. However, this is not always the case. If you want to start eating better, it’s important to know how to implement the right amount of carbohydrates into your diet to prevent unnecessary weight gain and keep you on the right path of towards establishing a healthy lifestyle.
Simply put, carbohydrates are sugars, fibers and starches that are naturally found in fruits, grains and dairy products. Despite anti-carb popular opinion, carbs are one of the basic food groups and are important for a healthy lifestyle. Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients that are necessary for your body to function properly.
Everyone has different dietary needs, but the National Institutes of Health recommend an average daily amount of 135 grams of carbs for adults, which amounts to about 45-65% of total calories. People with diabetes shouldn’t eat more than 200 grams a day, while women who are pregnant need to eat at least 175 grams.
Sometimes people can confuse the different types of carbohydrates. Carbs are found in both “good” foods (vegetables), and “bad” foods (cupcakes). Highly refined and processed foods, pastries, sodas, white rice, white bread and other white-flour foods are considered bad carbs, while good carbs are those found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans. Here is a great checklist from the Pritikin Longevity Center for determining whether or not the carbs you’re about to eat are good or bad:
Good carbs are:
• Low or moderate in calories
• High in nutrients
• Devoid of refined sugars and refined grains
• High in naturally occurring fiber
• Low in sodium
• Low in saturated fat
• Very low in, or devoid of, cholesterol and trans fats
Bad carbs are:
• High in calories
• Full of refined sugars, like corn syrup, white sugar, honey and fruit juices
• High in refined grains like white flour
• Low in many nutrients
• Low in fiber
• High in sodium
• Sometimes high in saturated fat
• Sometimes high in cholesterol and trans fats
It’s also important to know how the glycemic index of a food will affect your body. In fact, nutritionists consider this more important than the type of carbohydrate you’re eating. The glycemic index has the ability to measure how quickly and how much a carbohydrate raises your blood sugar. Foods like pastries have high-glycemic indexes, while low-glycemic foods raise your blood sugar gently to a lower degree. Research has linked high-glycemic foods with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Carbohydrates provide you with energy and fuel your central nervous system and working muscles. Keeping carbohydrates an important part of your diet helps maintain brain function, healthy moods, memory and energy—they can even influence your decision making.
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