Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel and main energy source and are essential for our vital organs to function properly. Our central nervous system, immune system, and even kidneys primarily rely on the carbohydrates our bodies receive from the food items we consume in order for them to function and operate at optimal and acceptable levels.
As the saying goes, however, “too much of something can also be bad” and this holds true for carbohydrate intake. Too many carbs can cause a spike in the blood sugar and insulin levels wreaking havoc on the health of individuals who may have consumed a higher than recommended amount of carbohydrates per day. So the real question that needs to be addressed then is this- “How many grams of carbs per day is ideal?”. In this article, we will look at what experts tell us about the recommended and ideal carbohydrate intake per day.
What Are Carbohydrates and What Are the Different Types of Carbs?
Carbohydrates are micronutrients that are found in the food items we consume and the beverages we drink. Most carbohydrates come from plant based such as grains but food manufacturers also add carbohydrates to their products via sugar and starch. As mentioned earlier, these carbs are the body’s fuel and supply our body’s energy during physical activities. Carbohydrates in moderate quantities can obviously provide the needed energy for our daily needs while an excessive amount of carbs can result in various health concerns such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. There are different types of carbohydrates and they are listed below :
- Sugars – These are the simplest forms of carbs and they can be found in different foods such as milk, fruits, and vegetables.
- Starch – Starch is a more complex carbohydrate as it is composed of various sugar molecules that have bonded. Starch-rich foods include vegetables, grains, beans, and peas.
- Fiber – Another complex carbohydrate, fiber can also be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and peas.
How Many Grams of Carbs per Day Should You Be Eating?
The total recommended grams per day really varies from individual to individual and depends on the overall calories consumed by an individual per day. However, a standard percentage of carbohydrates recommended for daily consumption has been established by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is recommended that individuals consume around 45 to 65 % carbohydrates of their total daily calorie intake. This means that if an individual eats within the recommended daily calorie intake of 2,000 calories, then he/she should be consuming around 900 to 1,300 worth of calories coming from carbohydrates. That translates to roughly around 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day. A higher calorie intake would consequently result in higher recommended carbohydrates consumed per day.
Why Carbohydrates Are so Important
Carbohydrates are essential to the proper and healthy function of the body. The following health benefits can only be achieved with adequate carbohydrate intake:
- Carbohydrates provide our bodies with energy: Our bodies can function and operate with the right amount of carbohydrates. They do this by getting broken down into glucose, being carried into the bloodstream and entering the body’s cells with the help of insulin. The glucose in the cells is then used by the body for its various physical activities.
- Carbohydrates can help protect our bodies against disease: Carbohydrates from the fiber can help our bodies fight off heart problems and cardiovascular issues. Fiber has also been shown to aid in addressing type 2 diabetes.
- Carbohydrates can help control and manage body weight: Carbohydrates coming from healthier alternatives such as fruits and vegetables can help manage body weight. Healthy carbs tend to make the individual consuming them feel fuller for longer preventing them from frequent snacking that occurs when sudden food cravings kick in.
Choosing the Right Type of Carbohydrates for Your Health
The saying that not all carbs are created equal still holds true. Some carbohydrates are indeed better than others in ensuring optimal nutrition and health. The following are some tips on how to choose the right type of Carbohydrates for health and wellness:
Go for Fiber-Rich Food Items
Those who wish to gain the maximum health benefits of carbohydrates should focus on fiber-rich whole foods such as vegetables and fruits. These whole foods contain natural sugars and help individuals feel more satiated longer.
Choose Whole Grain Foods
Whole grain foods have their grains and fiber intact while refined grains usually have some of their fibers and nutrients stripped off. Going for whole grain will definitely help the body gain enough fiber and nutrients for better health.
Choose Low-Fat Dairy Products
Cheese, yogurt, and milk are a good source of carbohydrates and other minerals. However, they tend to pack an increased level of calories and fats. As such, it is better to choose low-fat versions of the abovementioned dairy products. In addition, it is also recommended to choose the plain flavors of the said dairy products. Any added sugar to flavored variants can greatly and adversely affect the blood sugar levels of individuals, a concern that is particularly important for patients suffering from type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Increase the Intake of Legumes
Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils have high nutritional value as they contain folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Legumes also provide significant portions of protein and fiber and can be used as a meat substitute by vegans and vegetarians.
Decrease the Amount of Added Sugars
While small amounts of sugars are acceptable in terms of health, piling on additional sugars to food items is highly discouraged as they can contribute to weight gain, development of type 2 diabetes and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The bottom line is we should limit the intake of sugars and refined grains and focus more on consuming healthy and whole grain foods as these are the healthier sources of carbohydrates. While the recommended daily carbohydrates to be consumed should only be around 225 to 325 grams. The quality and type of carbohydrates to be consumed should also be considered and closely monitored for optimal health benefit.