Eat this much – What is a healthy amount to eat?
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Carbohydrates or carbs are one of the main macronutrients and they are our main source of energy. Carbs have a reputation of being a “bad food” in some circles, but the fact of the matter is that we all need to include a daily carb intake in our diet. It’s recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for America that carbs make up 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories. This is, of course, a recommendation, and the number is going to vary based on your dietary needs and restrictions.
Read Understanding Macro Diet and How to Manage Macros to Lose Weight to learn more about macronutrients and the role they play in your health and weight loss goals.
Too many carbs can be bad for you, that much is certain. But it has less to do with how much you’re getting as part of your daily carb intake and more to do with where you’re getting them from. To classify them as good or bad is a slight misnomer, however. Instead they should be classified by whether they’re ‘simple’ or ‘complex’. Simple carbs are a source of energy and easy to digest, often found in sugars (many of which are naturally occurring). They can be found in fruits and vegetables, but they can also be found in white bread and cakes. Complex carbs take longer to process, making them a more consistent source of energy. They can be found in whole grains but they’re also in breakfast cereals, many of which are loaded with sugar and processed ingredients.
Sugars are simple carbs, while fiber and starch are complex carbs. It’s easy to see why the simple carbs can be mistaken as ‘bad’. The easiest way to know if your daily carb intake is a healthy combination of simple and complex is to understand how to read nutrition labels. If something is listed as ‘sugar free’ or ‘no sugar added’ it might still contain sugar alcohol; if it does, it’s required to list those in the ingredient list. Ingredient lists are listed in quantitative order so even if the label says ‘sugar free’ but sorbitol is in the top five, the food is best avoided.
Fiber is a complex carb, it’s easy to find and is necessary for a healthy digestive system. But remember that complex carbs include starch; starches and sugars are processed similarly, both having an impact on blood sugar. That’s a large part of why complex carbs shouldn’t be considered the ‘good carbs’. While starch is an important part of daily carb intake, it’s best to find it in the classic ‘starchy foods’ such as potatoes and whole grains rather than cake and white bread.
This is especially important when on the keto diet because you need to watch for net carbs, which is not the same as total carbs. Net carbs can be found by subtracting the dietary fiber and from the total carbs. So if the total carbs listed is quite high but the fiber is as well, there’s a chance you can still eat it without having to worry about it impacting your diet. Net carbs are sometimes called non-impact carbs for this reason.
Take advantage of our Nutiro Ultimate Guide on How to Meal Plan that gives you the flexibility to enjoy other meal planning options such as keto, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, etc.