All About Carbs
By: Amy Tackett, MS, RDN, LD
Nutrition and healthy eating can feel overwhelming with all the information available. Understanding the basics can help you make healthier choices for you and your family. This blog covers carbohydrates, one of the basic building blocks of our food.
What is a Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients with protein and fat that provide the body with energy. Carbohydrate types include sugars, starches and fiber. Sugar is a smaller molecule found naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy or may be added to foods and beverages for taste and preservation such as those in desserts and soda. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 10% of total daily calories from added sugars. Starch is a larger molecule found naturally in beans, peas, grains and vegetables but may be added to processed foods as thickening agents. Fiber is different compared to sugars and starches in that it is not entirely digested. Diets higher in fiber promote regularity and can help reduce the risk of disease. Fiber is found in beans, peas, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and whole grains.
What To Eat
• Whole fruits like apples, bananas and kiwi
• Vegetables like sweet potatoes and broccoli
• Beans and lentils
• Whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole-wheat bread
Watch for these foods that may contain added sugars:
• Fruit juice
• Processed foods
How Much To Eat
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults eat 45-65% of total daily calories from carbohydrates. One gram of carbohydrate provides four calories. Based on an example of a 2000 calorie a day diet, anywhere from 900 to 1300 calories should come from dietary carbohydrates each day or around 225 to 325 grams each day. Individualized needs vary. Be sure to talk with a health care provider for more information on your personal needs.
American Diabetes Association. (2015). Types of Carbohydrates. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/art-20045705?pg=1
Total Carbohydrate. (n.d.). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Total_Carbohydrate.pdf
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/