Carbohydrates are a main dietary component with the primary function of providing energy to your body. They come in two forms: simple and complex. When it comes to deciding how much you should eat from a particular food category each day, in this case carbohydrates, you hope for any easy answer. Unfortunately, there is no set recommended amount in grams for carbohydrates, either for men or for women. However, there is a recommended percentage of calories you should eat based on how many calories you consume each day.
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The Right Amount
The National Institutes of Health recommends a daily carbohydrate intake that equals 40 to 60 percent of your total calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, you should get 800 to 1,200 calories from carbohydrates, with a preference for more complex carbohydrates. Eating more than this amount of carbohydrates can lead to an increased amount of calories and an increased risk of obesity.
Simple carbohydrates are comprised one or two different sugars, including fructose and galactose as single sugars and lactose, maltose and sucrose as double sugars. They are easy to digest and provide a quick energy boost, but they are usually of little or no nutritional value. Simple carbohydrates that do provide some nutritional value include fruits, fruit juices and milk. Simple carbohydrates such as candy, table sugar, alcoholic beverages and sweetened soft drinks provide calories but usually no nutritional value, notes the Wheat Foods Council. These empty calories from simple carbohydrates can lead to weight gain.
Complex carbohydrates include three or more sugars, and foods with complex carbohydrates are commonly referred to as starchy foods. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as legumes, starchy vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals. Complex carbohydrates require more work for digestion, and because of this sustain energy levels over a longer time. Complex carbohydrate foods are also good sources of vitamins, fiber and iron.
A healthy diet provides a balanced amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fiber. The majority of the recommended amounts for all of these depend on how many calories you consume each day. Talk with your physician to determine, based on your age and weight, how many calories your body needs. In general, you should get 10 to 35 percent of your total calories from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fat, 40 to 60 percent from carbohydrates and, according to the MayoClinic.com, a woman should eat about 22 to 28 grams of fiber a day.