Carbohydrates are macronutrients used by the body for energy. High-carb foods are converted into sugar, and give your body glucose. The body needs enough carbs to carry its vital functions.
There are simple and complex carbs. Complex carbs are slowly digested which is not the case of simple carbs, as they are quickly digested. Simple carbs are contained to processed and prepared foods often in the form of refined sugars and processed sweeteners.
Some carbs are healthier than others, and in this article we’ll give you a few tips on how to pick the right type.
The “proper” number of carbs
Your carbohydrate intake depends on your age, sex, activity level, ad overall health. Experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest that 45-65 percent of your daily calories should be obtained from carbs. In other words, you should get 225-325 grams of carbs if you ingest 2,000 calories per day.
Counting the carbs is sometimes challenging, but we suggest that you try this simple strategy to “build up” your dish and get the healthy portion of carbs:
- Split your dish into three parts. You can do this by “drawing” an imaginary vertical line, then split one half with an imaginary horizontal line.
- The big section should be always filled with non-starchy vegetables. These include spinach, carrots, lettuce, green cabbage and mushrooms.
- One of the small sections should be filled with starchy veggies like potatoes and winter squash. You can also try grains like whole grain pasta and brown rice. Nutritionist say that black peas or pinto beans are also a nice option.
- The other small portion should be filled with protein, so consider eating low-fat options like skinless chicken or turkey, salmon, catfish or lean beef.
- Eat just a small serving of fruit or low-fat dairy.
- Always opt for foods rich in healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, seeds, and nuts.
- Low-calorie drinks are always a healthy option. Drink more water, unsweetened tea or have a cup of coffee.
Starch is contained in starchy veggies and grain products. Here are some of them:
- winter squash
- green peas
- dried beans
- bread and bread products
If you aim towards eating just a small portion of grains and starchy veggies, always opt for high-fiber, unprocessed options that don’t contain much added sugar and fat. Starchy veggies and whole grains are abundant in minerals, vitamins and fiber.
Fiber is beneficial for your digestive tract. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, regulated blood sugar, and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Men under 50 should eat 38 grams of fiber per day, and women should eat 25 grams. Men over 50 should eat 30 grams of fiber, and women should eat 21 grams.
The following foods are rich in fiber:
- Whole grains
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
Always buy products that include whole grains as the main ingredient. Products with 3-5 grams of fiber are healthy high-fiber options. Steamed or boiled whole grains are a nice alternative, too. These include brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and oats.
Complement your starchy meal with enough fiber and natural sugars. Fresh fruits and vegetables are an absolute ‘must,’ so try to eat more of them.
Stay away from refined and added sugars. These are nothing but empty calories, which means you won’t get any nutrients. Products with added sugar provide less nutrients than foods abundant in natural sugars.
Avoid the following sugar-packed ingredients:
- brown sugar
- corn sweetener
- corn syrup
- fruit juice concentrate
- high-fructose corn syrup
- invert sugar
- malt syrup
- raw sugar
Limit the intake of these foods, and keep in mind that the ingredients are always listed by quantity, ranging from most to least. Products with high amount of sweeteners contain tons of added sugar, so be careful when buying these.
Get the right carbs
A few simple guidelines can help you get the right amount of carbs every day:
Soda and fruit “ades” aren’t good for you, so try to eat a whole fruit instead of sipping your fruit juice.
Whole grain bread, pasta, crackers, and cereals are better options than refined grain alternatives. Add more brown rice, whole barley, and oatmeal to your menu.
White pastas and breads should be substituted with whole wheat options or high-fiber grains.
Is cutting carbs good for you?
Cutting carbs requires caution, because the body can’t function without enough carbs. If you still decide to do this, here are some of the symptoms you’re likely to experience:
Healthy meals are important, which means restricting carbs alone won’t help you a lot. Low-carb diets promote weight loss, but also cause nutritional deficiencies. Consult your doctor before you change anything regarding your eating habits.
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