Carbohydrates (2024)

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Summary

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugar molecules. Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of three main nutrients found in foods and drinks.

Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the main source of energy for your body's cells, tissues, and organs. Glucose can be used immediately or stored in the liver and muscles for later use.

What are the different types of carbohydrates?

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars. They are also called simple carbohydrates because they are in the most basic form. They can be added to foods, such as the sugar in candy, desserts, processed foods, and regular soda. They also include the kinds of sugar that are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk.
  • Starches. They are complex carbohydrates, which are made of lots of simple sugars strung together. Your body needs to break starches down into sugars to use them for energy. Starches include bread, cereal, and pasta. They also include certain vegetables, like potatoes, peas, and corn.
  • Fiber. It is also a complex carbohydrate. Your body cannot break down most fibers, so eating foods with fiber can help you feel full and make you less likely to overeat. Diets high in fiber have other health benefits. They may help prevent stomach or intestinal problems, such as constipation. They may also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Fiber is found in many foods that come from plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.

Which foods have carbohydrates?

Common foods with carbohydrates include:

  • Grains, such as bread, noodles, pasta, crackers, cereals, and rice
  • Fruits, such as apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, melons, and oranges
  • Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
  • Legumes, including dried beans, lentils, and peas
  • Snack foods and sweets, such as cakes, cookies, candy, and other desserts
  • Juices, regular sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks that contain sugar
  • Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and peas

Some foods don't have a lot of carbohydrates, such as meat, fish, poultry, some types of cheese, nuts, and oils.

Which types of carbohydrates should I eat?

You do need to eat some carbohydrates to give your body energy. But it's important to eat the right kinds of carbohydrates for your health:

  • When eating grains, choose mostly whole grains and not refined grains:
    • Whole grains are foods like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, whole cornmeal, and oatmeal. They offer lots of nutrients that your body needs, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. To figure out whether a product has a lot of whole grain, check the ingredients list on the package and see if a whole grain is one of the first few items listed.
    • Refined grains are foods that have had some parts of the grains removed. This also removes some of the nutrients that are good for your health.
  • Eat foods with lots of fiber. The Nutrition Facts labels on the back of food packages tells you how much fiber a product has.
  • Try to avoid foods that have a lot of added sugar. These foods can have many calories but not much nutrition. Eating too much added sugar raises your blood sugar and can make you gain weight. You can tell if a food or drink has added sugars by looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the back of the food package. It tells you how much total sugar and added sugar is in that food or drink.

How many carbohydrates should I eat?

There is no one-size-fits-all amount of carbohydrates that people should eat. This amount can vary, depending on factors such as your age, sex, health, and whether or not you are trying to lose or gain weight. On average, people should get 45 to 65% of their calories from carbohydrates every day. On the Nutrition Facts labels, the Daily Value for total carbohydrates is 275 g per day. This is based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. Your Daily Value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs and health.

Is it safe to eat a low-carb diet?

Some people go on a low-carb diet to try to lose weight. This usually means eating between 25 g and 150 g of carbs each day. This kind of diet can be safe, but you should talk to your health care provider before starting it. One problem with low-carb diets is that they can limit the amount of fiber you get each day. They can also be hard to stay on for the long term.

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Carbohydrates (2024)

FAQs

Carbohydrates? ›

What are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugar molecules. Along with proteins and fats, carbohydrates are one of three main nutrients found in foods and drinks. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the main source of energy for your body's cells, tissues, and organs.

What are carbohydrate foods to avoid? ›

Carbs to Avoid, Plus Better Bets
  • Sugary drinks, sodas, and fruit juices. These often have added sugar. ...
  • White bread. Simply substitute your normal sandwich bread for a whole grain or whole wheat option.
  • Pasta. ...
  • French fries and potato chips. ...
  • Cookies, cakes, and pastries. ...
  • Candy, chocolate, and ice cream.
Oct 8, 2023

What are 10 foods high in carbohydrates? ›

Foods High in Carbohydrates
  • Grains such as rice, wheat, barley and maize.
  • Bread, pasta and cereal.
  • Beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.
  • Potatoes and root vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes.
  • Bran.

Are carbohydrates good or bad for you? ›

Nutrition experts divide carbohydrates into “good” and “bad.” Good carbs, like whole grains, brown rice and legumes, don't raise blood glucose quickly. Bad carbs, like white bread, cookies and sugary sodas, cause blood glucose to rise quickly.

What does carbohydrates do to your body? ›

The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches. Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.

What is the healthiest carbohydrate to eat? ›

Healthful, whole-food carbohydrate sources include:
  • sweet potatoes.
  • beetroot.
  • corn.
  • quinoa.
  • brown rice.
  • oats.
  • bananas.
  • apples.
Jul 19, 2022

What are the worst carbs to eat after 50? ›

Cookies, candies, cakes, ice cream, and packaged sweet bakery items qualify as processed desserts. They share common traits like added sugars, refined flour, and unhealthy fats that make them problematic for health after 50. The added sugars and refined carbs in sweets and desserts cause rapid blood sugar spikes.

What is the number one carb to avoid? ›

1. Sugary Foods. Most people already think of many of the foods in this category as unhealthy treats. Candy, soft drinks, and sweet desserts such as cake, chocolate, and ice cream are all expected entries on a list of carbs to avoid to lose weight.

Which foods have no carbs? ›

Food and drinks allowed on a no-carb diet include meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, oils, water, and plain coffee or tea. If you're less stringent, you can also eat nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, and high fat fruits like avocado and coconut since these foods are low in net carbs.

What foods are considered bad carbs? ›

Simple carbs, which are the so-called “bad” carbs, consist of short chains of sugar molecules. They include sugar, honey and other sweeteners, and are also found in dairy products, fruit and fruit juices, and in highly processed foods.

Is pasta a bad carb? ›

Pasta is high in carbs, which can be bad for you when consumed in large amounts. It also contains gluten, a type of protein that causes issues for those who are gluten-sensitive. On the other hand, pasta can provide some nutrients that are important to health.

Are potatoes bad carbs? ›

They're also chock full of starch, which is a carbohydrate. But even though a potato is considered a complex “healthy” carb, your body digests these carbs faster than other kinds of complex carbs. These broken-down carbs flood your blood with sugar. This makes your blood sugar spike quickly.

How many carbs should I eat a day? ›

How many carbohydrates do you need? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 65% of total daily calories. So if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. That translates to between 225 and 325 grams of carbs a day.

Which carbohydrates food should I avoid? ›

Here are a few examples of high-carb foods that you should avoid: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and sugar-filled snacks like candy bars and cakes. By cutting out these types of foods, you'll be on your way to achieving the healthy body and mind you've been searching for.

What happens if you don't eat enough carbohydrates? ›

Severe carb limits can cause your body to break down fat into ketones for energy. This is called ketosis. Ketosis can cause side effects such as bad breath, headache, fatigue and weakness.

What happens if you eat too much carbohydrate? ›

Excess carbohydrate intake places a large metabolic load on the body. When the body constantly has high levels of blood sugars (the end point of food sugar and starch) to deal with over time, this leads to weight gain, poor metabolic health and an increased risk of heart disease.

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