What do sweet blueberries, airy popcorn and tender pasta have in common? They’re some of the tastiest foods around! And they’re also mainly made of carbohydrates — organic compounds that your body uses to work its best. These nutritional building blocks can also help you lose weight and stay healthy as part of your balanced diet. Here’s why carbs are important — and how to eat them.
What are carbohydrates, and why do I need them?
Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are macronutrients. Macronutrients are the main building blocks of food. They’re also substances that your body must process to get energy and work properly. Your body can’t make macronutrients on its own, which means you need to eat them.
Carbs are the macronutrients that provide energy to your muscles and nervous system. They can also help your brain work well by improving your mood and memory. Carbs are the easiest macronutrient for your body to process. As a result, they’re also your body’s preferred source of energy. Many carb-rich foods — like fruits, veggies and whole grains — are full of essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function.
What are the healthiest carbs to eat?
Your body doesn’t make a big distinction in how it uses carbs from different sources. The key to health is in how your body digests them. When you combine carbs with the other nutrients in whole foods, they become healthier for you to eat.
When you eat plain carbohydrates, your body breaks them all down into sugars that then raise your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels spike — meaning you frequently let them get much higher than normal — this can raise your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. That’s why it’s important to eat complex carbs.
Complex carbs are foods that have high amounts of other nutrients, including fiber. Your body takes longer to digest these carbs. That keeps your blood sugar stable throughout the day and helps your body get steady energy.
Try these healthy nutrient- and fiber-packed complex carbs as part of your balanced diet:
- Acorn squash
- Black beans
- Brown rice
- Chickpeas, lentils and other legumes
- Corn — and popcorn!
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain pastas and breads
How many carbs do I need?
There isn’t an exact way to match your individual needs to a specific number of carbs. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you get 45–65% of your daily calories from carbohydrates. If you eat around 1800 calories each day, that means 810–1170 of your calories come from carbs — about 200–290 grams.
Often, people start counting carbs when they’re trying to drop a few pounds. You might wonder, “How many carbs should I eat to lose weight?” Limiting carbs can speed up your metabolism and help you feel full longer. You’ll want to learn the carb amounts in the foods you eat and keep track. Use these guidelines as part of your healthy diet plan:
- Eat 100–150 grams daily to lose weight gradually or maintain current weight loss.
- Eat 50–100 grams daily to lose weight and stabilize your blood sugar.
- Eat 20–50 grams daily if you’re diabetic or overweight and want to lose weight faster.
Are you ready to learn some tasty new recipes or change your diet to get healthier? Call us today at 513-952-5000 to make an appointment with a nutrition specialist. We’ll work together to create meal plans and new habits to help you achieve your health goals.