Whether you're following a low-carb trend, or are a carb junkie, carbohydrates play a role in your diet. If you're like most people, carbohydrates make up a significant portion of your diet. Some people consume too many refined carbohydrates, which over time can cause health issues such as insulin resistance and contribute to weight gain. Your body needs carbohydrates for optimal functioning, but some sources are healthier than others.
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Role of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates exist in your diet primarily in the form of sugars and starches. When you eat carbohydrate-containing foods, your body uses the resulting glucose for energy. Carbohydrates are your body's preferred fuel source, but under certain circumstances, it can use alternative energy sources such as fat. This is not the case for your brain though. Carbohydrates are a crucial fuel source for your brain, which is the only carbohydrate-dependent organ in your body.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The Institute of Medicine recommends you get between 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. For example, if you consume roughly 2,000 calories per day, you should get between 900 and 1300 calories from carbohydrates. The RDA for carbohydrates is set at 130 grams per day if you prefer to follow measurements in grams.
Added Sugar Allowance
Consuming too many added sugars can have an adverse effect on your health. Added sugars are sugars added during food preparation or manufacturer processing. Soft drinks, pastries, candy and other sweets provide a major source of added sugars. Common added sugars are corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, fructose and dextrose. Limit your intake of added sugars to no more than 25 percent of your total daily calories.
Fiber is a non-digestible form of carbohydrate. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils and apples, is water soluble and can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels. Foods such as brown rice, legumes, cucumbers and carrots contain insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. It helps soften and provide bulk to your stool, promoting regularity. The IOM recommends that adults 50 years and younger consume 38 grams of fiber daily for men and 25 grams for women. If you are a male over 50, consume 30 grams daily and 21 grams if you are a female over 50.
Choosing Healthy Carbohydrates
The type of carbohydrates you eat plays a more important role than the amount of carbohydrates you consume, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The healthiest carbohydrates come from unprocessed or minimally processed sources. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes are healthy carbohydrate sources. Beans and legumes are a great source of carbohydrates because they also provide protein. Limit your consumption of sodas, pastries, white breads, pastries, candy and other sweets.