Carbohydrate-rich foods are the main source of fuel for your body and your brain. They can help power you through athletic events or keep your concentration levels high, and they’re also some of the most vitamin- and mineral-rich foods available. To help you make the healthiest choices, learn more about recommended amounts and how they might fit in to your regular daily diet.
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The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that both men and women get about 45 to 65 percent of their total daily calories from carbohydrates, a figure that equates to about 900 to 1,300 calories per day, or 225 to 325 grams. Male endurance athletes may need more carbohydrates while preparing for an event to perform at their best. In those cases, bumping up your carbohydrate intake from 50 percent of calories to about 70 percent of calories is optimal.
Although foods from every main group contain some carbohydrates, those that are healthiest and richest in carbs include vegetables, fruits and grains. Rather than choosing processed or refined products, eat whole, natural foods that provide more vitamins and minerals. Emphasize high-carb choices that are also high in dietary fiber, which aids digestion and may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Specifically, the American Dietetic Association urges men to eat at least 2 cups of fruit, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 5 ounces of whole grains daily. The ADA suggests that men younger than 50 eat 38 grams of fiber daily and men 50 and older eat 30 grams daily.
If you don’t know your total calorie intake, it can be tough to figure out the amount of carbohydrates you’re supposed to be eating. Standard dietary recommendations on nutrition labels are based on a 2,000-calorie diet, but you may need more daily calories if you’re very active, or fewer if you are trying to lose weight. The Harvard School of Public Health suggests that a moderately active, 175-pound man needs about 2,800 calories daily. In addition to your activity level, your daily calorie needs differ based on your body size, genetics and rate of metabolism.
While carbohydrates provide the majority of your energy, they’re not the only nutrient that is essential for health. Your body also needs regular supplies of protein and fat, so it’s important not to neglect foods such as beans, lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Before you adopt a new eating plan or make any major changes to your current diet, speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian.