With all the information about low-carbohydrate diets, it can be tough to determine which carbohydrates and how much of them are healthy to eat. According to the Institute of Medicine, 45 percent to 65 percent of your total calorie intake should come from carbohydrates. That's 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrate per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. Your body uses these carbohydrates as an energy source to support brain and body functions and to exercise muscles. They come from a variety of foods including whole grains, fruit and dairy products. In general, carbohydrates that come from whole foods instead of processed foods are the healthiest for your body.
Whole-grain foods are one of the healthiest sources of carbohydrates. Because they aren't refined, whole grains contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals than highly processed foods. Dietary fiber in grains helps regulate digestion, increase fullness after eating, lower your cholesterol and prevent high blood sugar. Brown rice, quinoa, oats and bread and pasta made from whole wheat are healthy whole-grain foods. Limit your intake of white bread, regular pasta, white rice or processed foods made from refined flours.
Load Up on Legumes
Beans are another healthy source of carbohydrates. They provide you with complex starches, 10 to 15 grams of dietary fiber and roughly 14 grams of protein per serving. According to the Institute of Medicine, men need 31 to 38 grams of fiber per day and women need 21 to 25 grams per day. Eating beans helps you meet these daily needs. Consider increasing your legume intake by making soups, chili, burritos or curries with them. You can also top salads with beans or eat hummus with vegetable sticks to get healthy carbohydrates.
Including vegetables into your daily diet increases your intake of carbohydrates as well. Vegetables contain many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to help boost your health and prevent disease. Certain vegetables, considered starchy vegetables, contain more carbohydrates than other nonstarchy vegetables. Examples of starchy vegetables include corn, peas, potatoes and squash. Nonstarchy vegetables still contain healthy carbohydrates, just not as many. Examples of these are asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, peppers, greens and tomatoes.
Fruits are another category of healthy whole foods that supply you with carbohydrates. Although fruit provides more sugar than the other categories of good carbohydrates, it's a natural sugar. They also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients that help make fruits good for you. Consider adding a whole piece of fruit or sliced fruit, such as apples, pears, oranges, melons, peaches, nectarines and bananas, as a snack in between meals. A mixed fruit salad also makes a healthy dessert or snack that helps boost your good carbohydrate intake.
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Iowa State University: Dietary Fiber
- Bowes and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used; Jean A. T. Pennington and Judith Spungen Douglass
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables