Wondering whether you should eat carbs, and if yes how many carbs you should eat a day? Here are all the answers, plus the foods you should be eating to get them.
What Are Carbohydrates (Carbs)?
Carbs are formed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, so are called as carbohydrates. They are one of the three macronutrients, meaning they are one of the three main sources wherefrom your body obtains energy, or calories. The other two are protein and fat.
Macronutrients are crucially required for correct body functioning, so the body needs sufficient amounts of them. All macronutrients can only be obtained through diet, because the body cannot create macronutrients on its own.
Carbs are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Though often slandered in fast-food diets, carbohydrates are important to a healthy life. According to the American Diabetes Association carbs are the body’s main source of energy.
Does Your Body Needs Carbs?
Carbohydrates are overly controversial these days. On the one hand, the dietary guidelines recommend that we should get our sufficient calories need from carbohydrates, on the other hand, many warn that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes, so one should keep away from them. There are good arguments on both sides. Whatever may be the right way, but our bodies and brains do require carbs to work efficiently. However, we should remember not all carbohydrates are created equally, and we should try to include only good carb foods in our diet.
How Much Carbs You Need In A Day?
As per the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines the recommended daily amount (RDA) of carbs for adults is 135 grams; but the NIH also recommends that each individual must have his or her own carbohydrate goal.
However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbs should comprise about 45 to 65 percent of the total daily calories. So, if you need 2,000 calories a day, between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. That is equivalent to between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates a day. However, your carbs intake will depend on your aim depending upon whether you want to lose weight or maintain weight and your actual health conditions – like if you are having diabetes, your carbs intake should be much lesser.
Whatever your daily carbs need may be it’s important that you try to intake healthy carbs and avoid bad carbs. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a list of good carbs. A good carbs list is given here later.
Categories Of Dietary Carbohydrates
The three main dietary-carb categories are:
(i) Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
(ii) Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which in due course get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
(iii) Fiber: Humans cannot digest fiber, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.
You can check the carbohydrate content of packaged foods on the Nutrition Facts label. The Nutrition Facts label displays total carbohydrates that include starches, fiber, sugar alcohols, and naturally occurring and added sugars. It may also list total fiber, soluble fiber and sugar separately. You can also use nutrient calculators online or find information on a manufacturer’s website.
List Of Good Carbs To Eat
When you go for grocery shopping, some times you get confused while reading the food labels. They show sugar and fiber contents in the total number of carbohydrates, and you may not understand how to decipher them in order to buy good carb foods. Because our body breaks carbs into sugar, you should opt for high-fiber carbs, which take longer to break down, provide more lasting energy and maintain your sugar levels controlled.
To help you, we spoke to the experts dieticians about what are the good carbs to eat, and have short listed the best-of-the-best 8 nutritious carb sources from most of the major food groups (vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruit, dairy), so you’ll get a variety of vitamins and nutrients to support a healthy lifestyle.
(i) Sweet Potatoes: They are good source of simple starches and complex carbohydrates, and high in fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamins. Its naturally contained sugars (9g) helps in raising insulin levels—useful for diabetics, yams (the edible starchy tuber of a climbing plant, widely distributed in tropical and subtropical countries) are a better choice as they have more fiber and less sugar. Just one medium-sized cooked sweet potato offers a little over 100 calories; and imagine it possesses 27 gms of total carbohydrates — 4 of which come from fiber. On top of that, sweet potatoes are a power-packed recovery food. Its carotenoids help cell repair, the starchy carbs help replenish energy stores, and fiber will keep you full so you’re not tempted into having its unhealthier cousin—the potato chip.
(ii) Taro: Many people are not aware of this vegetable, but it’s one of the well known root vegetables in Asia, South America, and parts of the Pacific Islands. When cooked, its natural sugars provide it a sweet, nutty flavor. Nutritionally speaking, taro is one of the best sources of dietary fibers. One cup of taro sliced and cooked provides about 7 gms of fiber and contains less than 1 gm of sugar — both of which account for its 46 gms of total carbohydrates. Bonus point is that its slow-digesting complex carbs allow your blood sugar levels to rise gradually, providing you longer-lasting energy.
(iii) Chickpeas: Belonging to legumes family, this good carb food is well known for its “keeping you lean” properties. Just one cooked cup of this multipurpose bean provides 45 gms of slow-acting carbs, out of which it boasts of 12 gms of healthy fiber. Its daily consumption helps in improving weight management and weight loss, as they’re low on the glycemic index and alleviate your hunger pangs as well. Bonus point: A study, led by Dr. John Sievenpiper of the hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre has found that eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce “bad cholesterol” and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease.
(iv) Whole Grains: Whole grains, unprocessed carbs offer the following benefits:
(a) They’re high in fiber, helping us maintain a healthy GI tract
(b) They’re slow to digest, helping us control blood sugar
(c) They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, improving the nutrient density
(d) They’re satisfying, helping us control appetite
Just because of all the virtues of whole grains, it still doesn’t mean you can eat all you want. They are still carbohydrate dense. Even when including whole grains, make sure to eat according to your individual needs. Read these whole grain guidelines to know which whole grains and how much you should eat.
Our Recommendation: Whole-grain products like brown rice, whole-grain pasta, beans, whole wheat bread, whole oats, buckwheat, millet, whole rye, whole-grain barley and whole-grain corn are good carbohydrates to eat. These foods are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are beneficial to your health. Additionally, they contain a low glycemic index so they cause a slower change in blood sugar levels. We recommend avoiding diets rich in high glycemic index foods as they cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, thereby increasing the risk for diabetes and heart disease. On the other hand, foods that have a low glycemic index help you maintain a more stable blood sugar and promote weight loss and control Type 2 diabetes.
(v) Old-Fashioned Oats: They are one of the best healthy carbs to eat. Just one cup provides 104 gms of carbs; out of which17 grams are fiber. Bonus point is they being basically a blank slate, you can combine them with nutritionally dense add-ins. Oats also comprise of super fiber called beta-glucan, which bestows them with property of cholesterol-lowering abilities. Additionally, they help in slowing the digestion of food, keeping you to feel satisfied for hours.
(vi) Blueberries: Within the fruit category, berries are among the most nutritious sources of carbohydrate. Additionally, they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and even work as fat-burning food. They do not provide very large amount of carbs; a cup of blueberries provides 10 gms (7 gms from sugar, 2 from fiber), and moreover they do have amazingly high antioxidant levels and a host of health benefits thanks to their polyphenols.
(vii) Bananas: They are easy to digest, rich source of fast-acting carbohydrates (one large banana supplies 31 grams of carbs), and packed with potassium, which helps in keeping nerve and muscle functioning properly tuned up. Essentially, banana is nature’s gift that acts as the perfect pre- or post-workout snack. To fortify the health benefits, add some nut butter to promote muscle recovery and repair.
(viii) Low Fat Yogurt: This is not only a good carb food, but it’s a rich source of calcium that is critically needed in helping muscle contraction, maintaining your heart healthy, and stimulating your metabolism. A just 8 oz serving of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt provides 11 gms of carbohydrates (6 gms of sugar), making it a good nature’s own version of pre- or post-workout snack because it’ll inject you with quick energy.
Are you keeping a check on your carbs intake? What good carbs are you eating and what bad carbs you avoid? Please share with us your tips.