Carbohydrates or carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients in food.
Our body needs them to function properly, but do you know how much is necessary to consume daily? Know the recommendations of the experts and the best ways to obtain them.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are macronutrients, which, together with fats and proteins, constitute the body’s main sources of energy. Depending on their origin, carbohydrates can be classified into three types:
Sugars, also called simple carbohydrates, are the most basic form of carbohydrates. They can be added to foods, as is the case with sugar in candy, desserts, processed foods, and soft drinks, or occur naturally, as is the case with certain fruits, vegetables, or milk.
Starches are complex carbohydrates that are made of many simple sugars linked together. They can be found in breads, cereals, pasta, and certain vegetables such as potatoes, peas, or corn.
Fiber is another complex carbohydrate found in many foods that come from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Unlike the first two, fiber is not digested, passing relatively intact through the stomach, small intestine, and colon before exiting the body.
Instead, sugars and starches are converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream to be transported to all the cells of the body, and eventually used for energy.
How many carbohydrates should be eaten per day?
The amount of carbohydrates that should be consumed per day is often a matter of debate. In principle, because it is difficult to speak of a universal number when the need for carbohydrates varies between people according to age, sex, level of physical activity and general health status.
Another determining factor is the source of carbohydrates, since it is not the same to obtain them from soft drinks, fried foods, or salty, fried or sugary foods, than from fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that between 45 and 65% of calories should come from carbohydrates, that is, about 225 to 325 g of carbohydrates if 2,000 calories are consumed daily.
The US National Library of Medicine states that the recommended amount of carbohydrates for adults is 135g per day, although in some cases more may be needed, for example pregnant women should cover an intake of at least 175g. g.
For reference, keep in mind that the following options are equivalent to 15 g of carbohydrates:
- ½ cup of cooked oatmeal.
- ½ cup cooked beans, peas, or corn.
- 1/3 cup of cooked long grain rice.
- 1/3 cup of cooked pasta.
- 1 slice of bread.
- 1 cup (240 ml) of milk or soy milk.
- 1 cup of melon or berries.
- Two tablespoons of dried fruit.
- 3 ounces (84 g) of baked potatoes.
Keep in mind that packaged foods have labels that say how many carbohydrates they contain. These are measured in grams, sometimes they can appear as total carbohydrates, while in other cases they are differentiated as sugar, starch and fiber. If so, you must add them to know the amount of carbohydrates that food provides.
To count daily carbohydrates, it can also be helpful to keep a record book, as well as download apps that facilitate its control. As time goes on, it will be easier for you to estimate your daily carbohydrate intake.
While knowing how much carbohydrate you’re eating can help, some experts agree that counting carbohydrates isn’t always practical.
The American Diabetes Association offers a simple strategy to organize the plate of each meal and thus obtain the necessary amount of carbohydrates:
- Draw an imaginary vertical line down the middle of your plate. Then draw a horizontal line across one of the halves so that the plate is divided into three sections (one twice the size of the other two).
- Fill the large section with non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, or mushrooms.
- Fill one of the small sections with starchy vegetables like potatoes or squash, grains like pasta or brown rice, or legumes like peas or beans.
- Fill the last small section with protein, such as skinless chicken or turkey, salmon, or lean cuts of beef.
- Don’t forget to incorporate foods that contain healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, seeds and nuts.
- To drink, the ideal is to choose low-calorie options, such as water, tea or coffee without sugar.
By following the tips above you can get all the carbohydrates you need from the best sources for your body.
However, be sure to visit a nutritionist at least once a year. This will help you update your knowledge of daily carbohydrate intake and determine the right amount for you, based on your calorie needs and other personal factors.
Sources consulted: American Diabetes Association, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.