It may seem best to avoid eating too many carbohydrates per day due to several popular weight loss plans that advocate eliminating them. However, carbohydrates are the body's most easily-accessed form of energy and certain types of carbs have been shown to prevent heart disease and aid in the fight against obesity and diabetes. The government recommends daily intake of carbs with a focus on eating the right types.
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Types of Carbohydrates
There are different types of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are sugars that are naturally found in vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Simple sugars are also added during food processing and refining. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. All types of carbohydrates are eventually broken down into blood sugar or glucose to be used by the body for energy, states Medline Plus. Extra glucose that is not used immediately for energy, is stored as fat or in the liver and muscles for use later on.
Recommended Daily Amount
According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, 45 to 65 percent of daily caloric intake should be from carbohydrates. If following a 1,500-calorie diet then 675 to 975 of those calories should be from carbs -- 168 to 240 grams of carbohydrate. On a 2,000-calorie diet, it would be between 900 and 1,300 calories or 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrate. When choosing carbs, the focus should be on healthy simple carbohydrate sources, such as fruits and vegetables, along with healthier complex carbs like whole grains.
To meet the above requirement the US Department of Health and Human Services suggests eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of many different colors. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, then consume approximately 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and at least 4 to 6 ounces of grains daily. At least half of those grains should be whole grains. Examples of 1-ounce servings of whole grains include a 1-ounce slice of whole-grain bread, 1/2 cup brown rice or 1/2 cup of oatmeal. When choosing grains, read the ingredient list, as the labeling on packages can be misleading. Look for the following ingredients to be at the top of the list: whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, whole oats, whole rye, oatmeal, bulgur or whole grain. Along with the above, limit intake of refined carbs or foods with sugar added, such as white grains, white rice, baked goods and snacks like cookies and chips.
Healthy carbohydrates not only provide fuel for the body, they also contain fiber. A diet high in fiber has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease, reports the American Heart Association. Fiber also helps the body feel full and may curb binge or overeating, aiding weight loss efforts. Since whole grains cannot be identified by the color of the food, look for products that have 5 grams of fiber, or 20 percent of the daily value, per serving.