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Fact Check: Are Carbohydrates Necessary in Our Daily Diet?

Carbs are essential for your health for a variety of reasons. (Image via Pexels / Flo Maderbner)
Carbs are essential for your health for a variety of reasons. (Image via Pexels / Flo Maderbner)
Soniya Y

Are carbohydrates necessary in our daily diet? Now that’s a loaded question! We’ve all heard of the Atkins craze, South Beach diet and the Keto craze, all of which have attempted to say that one or the other type of carbohydrates are bad for your health.

So are carbs bad for your health? No. Not all carbohydrates are created equal – some good and some bad.

The type of carbohydrate you choose to eat is what answers the question in the title, as some sources are healthier than others. Before we dive into which carbohydrates are good and bad, let's understand what carbohydrates are.


What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients in a balanced diet. They provide glucose to the body, which is transformed into energy for biological functions and physical activities.

Carbohydrates is the main macronutrients in a balanced diet. (Image via Pexels / Harry Dona)
Carbohydrates is the main macronutrients in a balanced diet. (Image via Pexels / Harry Dona)

Carbohydrates come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Sugars, fibers, and starches are the most common types of carbohydrates found in food.

Carbohydrate-rich foods come in two broad categories: healthy and unhealthy.

  • Healthy sources of carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
  • Unhealthy sources of carbs include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined meals.

How many carbohydrates do you need?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45% to 65% of your total daily calories come from carbohydrates. That's between 225 and 325 grams of carbs a day.

To find out how many carbohydrates are in packaged foods, check the Nutrition Facts label. The label shows total carbohydrates — which can include fiber and sugars — as well as added sugars.


Heath Benefits of Eating Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, despite the stigma attached to them, are essential for your health for a variety of reasons.

1) Provide Energy

Carbs are the body's main source of fuel. (Image via Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio)
Carbs are the body's main source of fuel. (Image via Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio)

Carbohydrates, which are either sugars or starches, are the body's main source of fuel. Digestion breaks down carbs into simple sugars that enter the bloodstream as blood sugar. Insulin then helps cells absorb glucose for energy or stores it for later. If you consume more carbs than your body needs, excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen or converted to fat.

2) Fighting against illnesses

Helps in fighting the illness. (Image via Pexels / Evg Kowalievska)
Helps in fighting the illness. (Image via Pexels / Evg Kowalievska)

Whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to some research. People who suffer from obesity, colon and rectal tumors, and type 2 diabetes may all benefit from fiber. A healthy digestive system also requires fiber.

3) Controls Weight Gain

Whole grains will help you lose weight. (Image via Pexels / Total Shape)
Whole grains will help you lose weight. (Image via Pexels / Total Shape)

Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you lose weight. The fiber and bulk in whole grains can help you feel full with fewer calories. Eating certain types of carbs, such as those found in low-carb diets, doesn't lead to weight gain or obesity.


Healthy Sources of Carbohydrates

You should choose carbohydrates that are high in nutrients if you want to gain the benefits of carbohydrates. Whole grains should account for at least half of your carbohydrate intake.

  • Whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables and legumes all contain carbohydrates. Whole grains are rich in fiber and can help you feel full for longer than refined grains.
  • Fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals.
  • Starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, carrots and potatoes are packed with nutrients and include important vitamins such as vitamin C.
  • Legumes also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, zinc and folate.
  • Vegetables, fruits and legumes are healthy carbohydrate-rich foods which can be part of a healthy diet

Eat plenty of nonstarchy vegetables, nuts and seeds and soy milk, plus tofu for a healthy diet. You can find nonstarchy vegetables in the produce section, nuts and seeds in the snack aisle, tofu in the dairy section and soy milk at your local supermarket.


How to Incorporate Healthy Carbohydrates in Your Daily Diet?

1) Start your day with a serving of whole grains

Try a hot cereal, such as steel cut or old fashioned oats (not instant oatmeal), or a cold cereal with whole grains as the first ingredient and low sugar.A good guideline is to choose a cereal with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving and less than 8 grams of sugar.

2) Use whole grain breads

When choosing bread, look for ones that list whole grains as the main ingredient, such as whole wheat or rye. Choose bread that's made from whole-grain flours or simply 100 percent whole-wheat bread.

3) Instead of juice, opt for the entire fruit

Orange juice has double the fiber and half the sugar of an orange. It is advisable to eat the whole fruit as it is rather than opting for juice.


Bottom Line

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our diet because they fuel us with the energy we require. There is a fine line between healthy carbohydrates and junk carbs – the best way to keep them apart is to know your overall carb goals for the day and divide them in your meals uniformly.


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Q. Carbs: Yes or No?

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Edited by Prem Deshpande

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