Carbohydrates and Your Diet

Carbohydrates may seem like the kryptonite to your diet’s Superman, but there is a place for carbs in everyone’s daily meal plan. The kind of carbohydrates that you choose can make a huge difference to the success of your diet. Here are some things to think about before you open the refrigerator door.

Carbohydrates are found in many of your everyday food choices: fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, grain, seeds and legumes (alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, carob and soy). There are three type of carbs: sugars, starches and fiber. The carb type lets you know how your body will digest the food. Sugars are also called simple carbs because they are not combined with other molecules and as a result are digested very quickly and easily by your body. Starches are groupings of sugars bound together, and are found in foods such as vegetables, grains, beans and peas. Fibers are also bundles of sugar molecules bound together, and are the slowest to be digested by your body.

Many diets call themselves “low carb” or “no carb” or “carb counting” because of their focus on limiting the carbohydrates consumed daily. Other diets talk about knowing the glycemic index of your foods. That term measures the reaction of your blood sugar to what you eat. In general terms, simple carbs have a higher glycemic index than complex carbs (starches and fibers), because your body readily digests simple carbs and requires your pancreas to secrete insulin very quickly to maintain a stable blood glucose level. Further, some complex carbs have a relatively high glycemic index ranking, such as potatoes and corn and are avoided by this type of diet.

Are carbs necessarily bad? Absolutely not! The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that carbohydrates should be 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories. That means if you consume 2,000 calories a day, 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. That’s between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates in your daily diet. So, read your labels in the supermarket! Packaged foods all list their carbohydrate content for your reading pleasure.

Carbohydrates are important for good health, since they are your body’s main source of energy. The key to success is choosing your carbohydrates wisely. Try to feature high fiber fruits and vegetables. The fiber helps you to feel full before you’ve eaten too much, and the slower digestion rate helps your body to match your digestion to your energy needs. That means that you’re less likely to form fat cells. Include some whole grains so that you benefit from the selenium, potassium and magnesium that they contain. Limit your consumption of high fat dairy. There are plenty of low-fat and no-fat alternatives that taste great and reduce the saturated fat that can elevate your cholesterol level. And do stay away from simple carbs (sugars) to the degree possible. This will reduce fat production and tooth decay, a double treat!

So look past the buzz words and catch phrases when evaluating diets. Understanding the benefits and impacts of different types of food can make you a better eater and control your weight in a healthy way.

Interested in more on this topic?

Read: Carbohydrates and a Longer Life
          Losing Weight With the Carb Lover's Diet


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. It all comes down to balance. Too many carbs are bad, just as too few carbs are bad. Moderation in all things! Want to lose weight, eat less, but of a balanced diet. Exercise daily. Maybe visit with friends to keep optimistic. Health will follow!

  3. The Paleo diet worked for me. I lost 5 pounds in under a month. Don't know why I eat so many carbs every day.

  4. I like the South Beach Diet. Easy to follow and I actually lost weight.

  5. OK, so I'm confused. Does anyone know of a diet that is safe AND works?