Information about Carbohydrates and High-Carb Diets

Carbohydrates supply energy for the body in the form of glucose. This process occurs with the help of an enzyme called amylase, which helps to break down carbohydrates into a usable energy source by the body. Carbohydrates an essential part of any diet plan, and according to most health organizations, should be the most abundant source of calories in your diet. Contrary to what most low-carb diets encourage, eliminating carbs from your diet is not a healthy way to live and can even be dangerous long term. A moderate to high-carbohydrate diet plan may be the ideal choice for athletes or physically active people, but talk to your doctor before increasing your daily carb intake because eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain.

The Lowdown on Carbohydrates

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories. Some people may need even more carbohydrates in their diet, such as endurance athletes. Colorado State University suggests that endurance athletes consume as much as 75 percent of their calories from foods rich in carbohydrates. Dietary fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that can lower your risk of heart disease among other benefits, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans report.

Why Eat Carbs?

Consuming enough carbohydrates each day plays a significant role in your body’s energy levels during any type of physical activity. Carbohydrates supply energy to the body in the form of glucose, which is the only energy source used by red blood cells and is the preferred source of energy by most parts of the body, including the brain. Choosing carbohydrates wisely is important because foods that contain naturally-occurring sugars – fruits, milk, grains and vegetables – are much better for your body than table sugar, high fructose sugar and other sweeteners.

Types

There are two types of carbohydrates: complex and simple. The two types differ in how the body processes them. Complex carbohydrates are known as starchy foods and include vegetables and whole grain foods. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruit and milk products. Refined sugars, such as table sugar, are also considered simple sugars, although they contain little nutritional value. Because of this, refined sugars should be limited in your diet.

How Much Should You Eat?

The majority of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, this means you should be consuming 900 to 1,300 calories of carbs each day based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommendations. Extreme athletes may need to increase this amount slightly; talk to your doctor about increasing your daily carb intake. Additionally, the same 2,000 calorie-a-day diet plan would ideally contain 28 g of dietary fiber, or the equivalent of 14 g per 1,000 calories.

High-Carb Foods

The best sources of carbohydrates are those that contain high levels of fiber and naturally-occurring sugars. In other words, avoid added sweeteners when trying to increase your daily carb intake because these calories contain little or no nutrition. A list of high-carb food includes potatoes, milk, any type of fruit, legumes and whole grain breads/cereals/pastas. Divide your carb-intake equally between meals to allow time for your body to digest and process the nutrients.

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