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Are carbs necessary: The truth about carbs – NHS


The truth about carbs – NHS

“Carbs” are a hotly debated topic, especially in the weight-loss world, due in part to diets such as the Atkins, Dukan, South Beach and Ketogenic Diet.

The idea that “carbs are bad” has left many people confused about carbohydrates and their importance for our health, including maintaining a healthy weight.

Carbohydrates a broad category and not all carbs are the same. It’s the type, quality and quantity of carbohydrate in our diet that’s important.

There is strong evidence that fibre, found in wholegrain versions of starchy carbs, for example, is good for our health.

What are carbs?

Carbohydrates are 1 of 3 macronutrients (nutrients that form a large part of our diet) found in food. The others are fat and protein.

Hardly any foods contain only 1 nutrient, and most are a combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in varying amounts.

There are 3 different types of carbohydrates found in food: sugar, starch and fibre.


The type of sugars that most adults and children in the UK eat too much of are called free sugars.

These are sugars that are added to food or drinks, such as biscuits, chocolate, flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks.

The sugars in honey, syrups (such as maple, agave and golden syrup), nectars (such as blossom), and unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies happen naturally, but these still count as free sugars.

Find out more about sugar


Starch is found in foods that come from plants. Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day. 

Find out more about starchy foods


Fibre is found in the cell walls of foods that come from plants. Good sources of fibre include fruit and vegetables, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta, and pulses (beans and lentils).

Find out how to get more fibre into your diet

How much carbohydrate should I eat?

The government’s healthy eating advice, illustrated by the Eatwell Guide, recommends that just over a third of your diet should be made up of starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, and over another third should be fruit and vegetables.

This means that over half of your daily calorie intake should come from starchy foods, fruit and vegetables.

Why do we need carbs?

Carbohydrates are important to your health for several reasons.


Carbohydrates should be your body’s main source of energy in a healthy, balanced diet.

They’re broken down into glucose (sugar) before being absorbed into your blood. The glucose then enters your body’s cells with the help of insulin.

Glucose is used by your body for energy, fuelling your activities, whether that’s going for a run or simply breathing.

Unused glucose can be converted to glycogen, which is found in the liver and muscles.

If more glucose is consumed than can be stored as glycogen, it’s converted to fat for long-term storage of energy.

Starchy carbohydrates that are high in fibre release glucose into the blood slower than sugary foods and drinks.

Disease risk

Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. It can promote good bowel health, reduce the risk of constipation, and some forms of fibre have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

Research shows diets high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

Many people do not get enough fibre. On average, most adults in the UK get about 19g of fibre a day. Adults are advised to eat an average of 30g a day.

The recommended fibre intake for children can vary from 15g to 30g, depending on their age.

Calorie intake

Carbohydrate contains fewer calories gram for gram than fat; 4 calories (4kcal) per gram for carbs and 9 calories (9kcal) per gram for fat. Also, starchy foods can be a good source of fibre, which means they can be a useful part of maintaining a healthy weight.

By replacing fatty, sugary foods and drinks with higher fibre starchy foods, it’s more likely you’ll reduce the number of calories in your diet. Also, high-fibre foods add bulk to your meal, helping you feel full.

Should I cut out carbohydrates?

While we can survive without sugar, it would be difficult to eliminate carbohydrates entirely from your diet.

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. In their absence, your body will use protein and fat for energy.

It may also be hard to get enough fibre, which is important for long-term health.

Healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as higher fibre starchy foods, vegetables, fruit and legumes, are also an important source of nutrients, such as calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Significantly reducing carbohydrates from your diet in the long term could mean you do not get enough nutrients, potentially leading to health problems.

Replacing carbohydrates with fats and higher fat sources of protein could increase your intake of saturated fat, which can raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood – a risk factor for heart disease.

When you’re low on glucose, the body breaks down stored fat to convert it into energy. This process causes a build-up of ketones in the blood, resulting in ketosis.

This can cause headaches, weakness, feeling sick, dehydration, dizziness and irritability.

Try to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat and instead include healthier sources of carbohydrate in your diet, such as wholegrains, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, and legumes.

Diabetes and low-carb diets

There is evidence that low-carb diets are safe and effective in the short-term for most people with type 2 diabetes. They help with weight loss, diabetes control and reducing risk of complications.

It’s recommended you talk to a GP or your care team before starting a low-carb diet as it’s not suitable for everyone with type 2 diabetes. Your care team should provide advice on how many carbs you should eat. Diabetes UK also provides a 7-day low-carb meal plan on its website.

It’s also important to be aware of possible side effects of a low-carb diet, such as low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).

There is no evidence that a low-carb diet is more effective in the long-term for people with type 2 diabetes than other types of diet such as a reduced-calorie diet.

There is currently no strong evidence that low-carb diets are effective for people with type 1 diabetes.

Low-carb diets are not recommended for children with diabetes as they might affect growth.

Can protein and fat provide energy?

While carbohydrates, fat and protein are all sources of energy in the diet, the amount of energy each one provides varies:

  • carbohydrate provides about 4 calories (4kcal) per gram
  • protein provides 4 calories (4kcal) per gram
  • fat provides 9 calories (9kcal) per gram

In the absence of carbohydrates in the diet, your body will convert protein (or other non-carbohydrate substances) into glucose, so it’s not just carbohydrates that can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels.

If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight.

So, cutting out carbohydrates or fat does not necessarily mean cutting out calories if you’re replacing them with other foods that contain the same number of calories.

Are carbohydrates more filling than protein?

Carbohydrates and protein contain roughly the same number of calories per gram.

But other things make us feel full, such as the type, variety and amount of food we eat, as well as eating behaviour and environmental factors, like serving sizes and the availability of food choices.

The sensation of feeling full can also vary from person to person. Among other things, protein-rich foods can help you feel full, and you should have some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

But we should not eat too much protein-rich and starchy foods. Starchy foods should make up about a third of the food we eat, and we all need to eat more fruit and vegetables.

What carbohydrates should I be eating?

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which looks at food consumption in the UK, shows that most of us should also be eating more fibre and starchy foods and fewer sweets, chocolates, biscuits, pastries, cakes and soft drinks that contain added sugar.

Fruit, vegetables, pulses and starchy foods (especially higher fibre varieties) provide a wider range of nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals), which are beneficial to health.

The fibre in these foods can help keep your bowel healthy and adds bulk to your meal, helping you to feel full.

How can I increase my fibre intake?

To increase the amount of fibre in your diet, aim for at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg a day.

Go for higher fibre varieties of starchy foods and eat potatoes with the skin on. Try to aim for an average intake of 30g of fibre a day.

Here are some examples of the typical fibre content in some common foods:

  • 2 breakfast wheat biscuits (approx. 37.5g) – 3.6g of fibre
  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread – 2.5g
  • 1 slice of white bread – 0.9g
  • 80g of cooked wholewheat pasta – 4.2g
  • 1 medium (180g) baked potato (with skin) – 4.7g
  • 80g (4 heaped tablespoons) of cooked runner beans – 1. 6g
  • 80g (3 heaped tablespoons) of cooked carrots – 2.2g
  • 1 small cob (3 heaped tablespoons) of sweetcorn – 2.2g
  • 200g of baked beans – 9.8g
  • 1 medium orange – 1.9g
  • 1 medium banana – 1.4g

Can eating low glycaemic index (GI) foods help me lose weight?

The glycaemic index (GI) is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrate. It shows how quickly each food affects the glucose (sugar) level in your blood when that food is eaten on its own.

Some low-GI foods (foods that are absorbed slower by the body), such as wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables, beans and lentils, are foods we should eat as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

But GI alone is not a reliable way of deciding whether foods, or combinations of foods, are healthy or will help you lose weight.

Although low-GI foods cause your blood sugar level to rise and fall slowly, which may help you to feel fuller for longer, not all low-GI foods are healthy.

For example, watermelon and parsnips are high-GI foods, yet healthy, while chocolate cake has a lower GI value.

And the way a food is cooked and what you eat it with as part of a meal will change the GI rating.

Find out more about the glycaemic index (GI)

Do carbohydrates make you fat?

Any food can cause weight gain if you eat too much. Whether your diet is high in fat or high in carbohydrates, if you frequently consume more energy than your body uses, you’re likely to gain weight.

Gram for gram, carbohydrate contains fewer calories than fat. Wholegrain varieties of starchy foods are good sources of fibre. Foods high in fibre add bulk to your meal and help you to feel full.

But foods high in sugar are often high in calories, and eating these foods too often can contribute to you becoming overweight.

Can cutting out wheat help me lose weight?

Some people point to bread and other wheat-based foods as the main cause of their weight gain.

Wheat is found in a wide range of foods, from bread, pasta and pizza to cereals, biscuits and sauces.

But there’s not enough evidence that foods that contain wheat are any more likely to cause weight gain than any other food.

Unless you have a diagnosed health condition, such as wheat allergy, wheat sensitivity or coeliac disease, there’s little evidence that cutting out wheat and other grains from your diet will benefit your health.

Grains, especially wholegrains, are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Wholegrain, wholemeal and brown breads give us energy and contain B vitamins, vitamin E, fibre and a wide range of minerals.

White bread also contains a range of vitamins and minerals, but it has less fibre than wholegrain, wholemeal or brown breads.

If you prefer white bread, look for higher fibre options. Grains are also naturally low in fat. 

Find out if cutting out bread could help ease bloating or other digestive symptoms

What’s the role of carbohydrates in exercise?

Carbohydrates, fat and protein all provide energy, but your muscles rely on carbohydrates as their main source of fuel when you exercise.

Muscles have limited carbohydrate stores (glycogen) and need to be topped up regularly.

A diet that is low in carbohydrates can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery.

When is the best time to eat carbohydrates?

There’s little scientific evidence that one time is better than any other.

It’s recommended that you base all your meals around starchy carbohydrate foods and you choose higher fibre wholegrain varieties when you can.

Page last reviewed: 9 January 2020
Next review due: 9 January 2023

Why Humans Don’t Need Dietary Carbohydrates to Thrive

Snap Shot

When discussing carbohydrate restriction, two fallacious arguments related to the energy needs of the brain and the sustainability of a ketogenic diet are often levied against the use of a well-formulated ketogenic diet in practical therapeutic medicine:

  1. The human brain burns 600 kcal per day, and this translates to a 150 gram per day glucose requirement to meet its energy needs, and
  2. No one can follow a ketogenic diet long term.

In the peer-reviewed medical literature over the last 5 decades, these arguments against the safety and sustainability of nutritional ketosis have been proven false over and over again, most recently with the 2-year results of our Indiana University Health study¹.

We have addressed the necessary components of a well-formulated ketogenic diet that most people can follow for years if properly informed and supported. The specific topic that we want to address here is how both the brain and body can function as well—or even better—on a diet with little or no dietary carbohydrate compared to the typically promoted low fat, high carbohydrate ‘healthy diet.’

Published science has shown that ketones that are produced from either dietary fats or triglycerides stored in our adipose tissue reserves are an excellent fuel for the brain.  Further, we now know that these ketones produced by the liver also have multiple beneficial effects on the heart, kidneys, and other organs that appear to translate into improved longevity²,³,⁴. Additionally, new research has highlighted that skeletal muscles, even those of competitive athletes, are not solely dependent on high dietary carbohydrate intake for glycogen replenishment and performance⁵.

However, up until 5 years ago, however, we struggled to understand the mechanism(s) of these additional beneficial effects. Now we know why this long-discounted physiology can play a dominant role in our health and well-being.  In addition to the fact that ketones are a cleaner-burning fuel (i.e., producing fewer free-radicals) than glucose when used by the brain and other organs, the primary ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate can also function as a signal to activate genes that regulate our defenses against oxidative stress and inflammation³.

How the body shifts its primary energy source from carbohydrates to fats and ketones is anything but simple. This process, which we have named ‘keto-adaptation,’ starts within days but takes a considerable period of time to fully develop. And even after it is complete, the result is not an absolute exclusion of glucose from the body’s fuel supply. Rather, the need and use of glucose is dramatically reduced, while at the same time pathways that salvage products of partially metabolized glucose (e.g., pyruvate and lactate) for recycling into fuel and other beneficial metabolic intermediates become more finely tuned. The result is maintenance of normal blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels that can be sustained without the need for dietary carbohydrate intake.

Physiologic Role of Carbohydrates

The belief that the brain and central nervous system need carbohydrates to function properly is often supported with the circular logic that the brain uses glucose therefore it needs glucose, and it needs it because it uses it. The hole in this argument is that the brain does not in fact need glucose. It actually functions quite well on ketones. Stating it another way, the presumed requirement for glucose by the brain is a conditional need that is based on the fuel sources dictated by one’s choice of diet. A ketone-suppressing diet (i.e., any diet supplying >30% of energy from the combined intakes of carbohydrate and protein) essentially forces the brain to rely on glucose for fuel.

It is true that some cells within the body do require glucose. For example, red blood cells, parts of the kidney, and the epithelial cells that cover the lens of the eye are primarily glycolytic because they lack mitochondria and thus are dependent upon glucose to function. This is also partially true for the fast-twitch muscle fibers (which have fewer mitochondria than slow-twitch muscle) used for high intensity exercise like weight lifting and sprinting. But in all of these cases where glucose is broken down to lactate, the body then has a choice—cells with mitochondria can further oxidize the lactate to CO2 and water, or the body can recycle that lactate back to glucose.

Evidence That the Brain Can Function on Ketones

The simplest experiment that demonstrates the brain’s ability to function on ketones is the observation that humans can tolerate total fasting with normal mental function for durations of 30-60 days. Interestingly, during prolonged starvation, muscle mass and other important structures in the body progressively lose mass and function. The brain, however, is fully protected against the starvation catabolism that depletes the rest of the body.  Elegantly done studies that measured glucose and ketone levels in arterial blood going into the brain compared to these fuels in the jugular vein coming out of the brain, indicated that ketones are in fact able to supply the great majority of the brain’s energy. But because even prolonged starvation does not reduce the blood glucose level below the ‘low normal’ range, these observations did not prove there is not a small but significant glucose requirement for the keto-adapted brain.

This question was addressed directly many decades ago when two prominent research groups undertook similar experiments to evaluate mental function in starvation-adapted patients whose blood glucose was reduced to very low levels by an infusion of insulin⁶,⁷.

[Although we are sharing this as valuable published information, we also need to note that while these experiments were considered acceptable in the day, they would not pass ethical muster today due to the risks for the patients compared to the benefits of the accrued knowledge.]

Both studies involved severely obese patients who had been on total fasts under continuous inpatient observation for from 30 to 60 days. In the study by Drenick et al., 9 participants with blood BOHB (beta hydroxybutyrate) in the 7–8 mM range were administered a single bolus of insulin sufficient to transiently drive blood glucose values down to a mean of 36 mg/dl (with some patients’ values going as low as 9 mg/dl). Despite causing profound hypoglycemia to levels normally associated with coma or death, none of these patients experienced any symptoms associated with hypoglycemia. Moreover, measures of urinary catecholamines that are indicative of the body’s counter-regulatory stress response to hypoglycemia were not elevated, despite these brief but profoundly low blood glucose values.

In the other study reported by Cahill and Aoki⁷, 3 obese males adapted to prolonged fasting were administered insulin via a slow constant infusion over 24 hours. In this case, blood glucose levels declined gradually, but eventually reached a mean value of 25 mg/dl, while blood BOHB stayed in the 4–6 mM range. With this method of insulin administration, blood glucose values under 36 mg/dl were sustained for 10–12 hours, but again the patients exhibited no clinical signs of hypoglycemia or a counter-regulatory hormonal response.

What these two dramatic (but risky) studies demonstrated is clear evidence of normal brain function in the virtual absence of glucose when sufficient ketones are available. This offers us the unique perspective that when consuming a carbohydrate-rich diet, the predominate source of fuel for the brain is glucose; not because it is needed but because the other natural and highly effective brain energy source has been shut off. But under conditions of consistent nutritional ketosis, the brain adapts to the presence of ketones by enhancing their uptake and oxidation, thus protecting cognitive and CNS function⁶.

It should be noted that these studies showing potent neuro-protection by ketones under conditions of profound hypoglycemia involved small groups of patients with blood ketones in the 4–8 mM range, whereas nutritional ketosis values tend to be lower—i.e., in the 1–4 mM range. We do not have the results of similar human studies with purposefully-induced hypoglycemia, and modern ethical standards appropriately prevent such research.  However, in managing numerous patients with type 2 diabetes taking hypoglycemic medication, we have observed many instances of moderate hypoglycemia without the expected symptoms when blood BOHB values are in the nutritional ketosis range. Also of note, is the fact that the brain favors ketones over glucose as indicated by preferential uptake of ketones even when glucose is elevated⁸. This also appears to be the case in the heart.

Essentials of Keto-Adaptation—Glucose Conservation and Salvage

It is important to remember that just because one doesn’t consume dietary carbohydrate does not mean the body is completely lacking in glucose. Whether on a total fast for weeks⁶,⁷ or following a meat-and-fat-only ketogenic diet for a month⁹,¹⁰, blood glucose values remain in the normal range both at rest and during exercise. This occurs because the body is quite capable of synthesizing all of the glucose it needs from various gluconeogenic precursors, while at the same time strictly limiting its rate of carbohydrate oxidation.There are at least five sources of these glucose precursors:

  1. breakdown of muscle to supply amino acids for gluconeogenesis;
  2. breakdown of dietary protein to supply amino acids for gluconeogenesis,
  3. glycerol released from the hydrolysis of adipose tissue triglyceride or dietary triglyceride;
  4. recycling lactate and pyruvate from glycolysis; and
  5. acetone produced by the spontaneous breakdown of acetoacetate to acetone that can be used for gluconeogenesis.

This last source is a bit surprising, as it is actually a small but significant pathway for the production of glucose from fatty acids¹¹. The conditions for and the amounts provided by these various sources of gluconeogenesis are shown in the following table.

What this table clearly demonstrates is that whether during a total fast or a ketogenic diet without carbohydrate containing foods, new or recycled gluconeogenic substrates provide for the generation of anywhere from 100–200 g/d of glucose. Add to this up to 50 g/d of dietary carbohydrate as part of a well-formulated ketogenic diet, and it becomes clear why nutritional ketosis is well tolerated under a variety of challenging conditions.

The obligate other half of this balancing equation is the body’s ability to strictly limit its net use of glucose as an oxidative fuel. The extent of this conservation can be appreciated from indirect calorimetry data from keto-adapted adults at rest and during endurance exercise. In both untrained and highly trained individuals, this indicator of total body fuel use shows that approximately 90% of the body’s energy is being supplied by fat or ketones derived from fat⁵,⁹,¹⁰.

Lessons from Low Carbohydrate Athletes

Perhaps the situation perceived as most challenging for someone on a ketogenic diet is the ability to maintain glucose/glycogen reserves with prolonged, high intensity exercise. For a greater part of the last century, the accepted paradigm has been that one’s initial muscle glycogen is positively correlated with the ability to sustain endurance performance during moderate-to-high intensity exercise¹²,¹³. However, given that even with ‘optimized’ muscle glycogen obtained by using a carbohydrate-loading diet strategy, an endurance athlete has a peak total body glycogen content of only about 2000 kcal. To attempt to simultaneously train the muscles to use more fat and reduce one’s dependency upon glycogen in order to extend performance creates somewhat of a metabolic oxymoron. This is because very high insulin levels induced by carbohydrate loading actually suppress adipose fatty acid release and oxidation.

To explore this further and assess the limits of human fat oxidation during exercise, a research team from the Netherlands studied 300 adults, examining their maximum fat oxidation during exercise¹⁴. They reported the maximum rate of fat oxidation for the best individual fat burner in this group (which included a number of highly trained athletes) to be 0.99 grams of fat per minute. However long before that, one of us reported that bicycle racers who were keto-adapted for just 4 weeks were able to burn fat at 1.5 grams of fat per minute¹⁰. Based upon the before and after muscle biopsies taken in this study, after keto-adaptation these bike racers were able to perform the same amount of work while using just one quarter the amount of muscle glycogen. This was the first study that clearly disconnected muscle glycogen from endurance performance in keto-adapted athletes.

However, the best demonstration of this disconnect was recently published by Jeff Volek’s group⁵. We recruited 20 competitive ultra-runners, 10 of whom followed a traditional high carbohydrate diet and the other 10 had been following a ketogenic diet for at least 6 months (mean diet duration 22 months). The ketogenic diet group reported an average daily carbohydrate intake of 64 grams and had a mean fasting serum BOHB of 0. 6 mM.

After baseline testing, these runners were asked to do a 3-hour run at race-pace on a treadmill—essentially an indoor marathon. Surprisingly, both groups had similar muscle glycogen levels before the run, and they also both mobilized similar amounts (about 80%) of their glycogen during 3 hours on the treadmill. But indirect calorimetry testing (measuring 02 consumption and CO2 production) indicated that almost 90% of ketogenic runner’s net energy use was from fat. This result is a clear indication that glycogen mobilization does not equate with carbohydrate oxidation in the keto-adapted state. Rather glycogen stores can be optimized and available for anaerobic (aka glycolytic) muscle function and then quantitatively recycled back to glucose by the liver. An even more astonishing example of being able to maintain normal muscle glycogen while consuming very little carbohydrate during repeated days of exhaustive exercise has been reported in trained sled dogs¹⁵,¹⁶.

Why Some Experts Still Claim that We Need Dietary Carbohydrates

In addition to the commonly stated but flawed arguments for dietary carbohydrate that we have addressed above—i. e., that the brain and some other tissues are obligate carbohydrate burners and that carbohydrates are required for exercise—there are a number of other reasons often used to support the idea that we need to consume carbohydrates above levels that facilitate nutritional ketosis.

The liquid protein diet debacle. With the publication of the book ‘The Last Chance Diet’ in 1976, a profoundly flawed diet with overt electrolyte and mineral inadequacies was promoted to the public, resulting in over 60 cases of sudden death reported to the CDC in the following few years. Rather than actually identifying the true underlying cause, expert opinion was that ketones were toxic to the heart¹⁷,¹⁸. Despite our publishing multiple rigorous studies demonstrating excellent maintenance of heart rhythm and function when adequate electrolytes and minerals are supplied during nutritional ketosis⁵,⁹,¹⁰,¹⁹ this flawed conclusion remains commonly held by many medical practitioners and scientists to this day. That notwithstanding, there is absolutely no scientific basis for the claim that dietary carbohydrates are necessary to prevent the buildup of damaging levels of ketones (AKA ‘toxic byproducts of fat metabolism’).

The myth of adrenal fatigue. In both general clinical experience and in some published research, poorly formulated low carbohydrate diets are understood to cause headache, fatigue, exercise intolerance (aka ‘keto flu), and adrenergic depletion (20). This study by DeHaven—The Yale Turkey Study—has been discussed in our prior blog post. In brief, they administered a protein-only diet to obese women for 4–6 weeks containing severely restricted amounts of sodium and potassium. The resulting impaired protein metabolism and profound hypotension was due to overt electrolyte inadequacies, not nutritional ketosis as the authors claim. These and other findings presented where subjects did not receive adequate electrolyte replacements have been used to paint a picture of physiological stress that can be brought on by a ketogenic diet, despite numerous studies indicating no increased catecholamine response in keto-adapted subjects⁶,⁷.

Thyroid dysfunction secondary to nutritional ketosis. In the context of the common observation of impaired energy and exercise tolerance when nutritional ketosis is combined with inadequate intakes of electrolytes, it is tempting to blame this on impaired thyroid function. However, this common conclusion does not stand up to basic scientific scrutiny. Yes, the blood level of the active thyroid hormone T3 typically falls by 30–40% in the first few weeks of a well-formulated ketogenic diet, but this is not accompanied by any signs or symptoms of clinical hypothyroidism. As discussed in our prior blog post Does Your Thyroid Need Dietary Carbohydrates?, this change is due to a marked reduction in thyroid hormone resistance (similar to the concurrent improved insulin resistance) during nutritional ketosis. Therefore, this is a healthy response and not a sign of endocrine dysfunction.

Sleep patterns are disturbed by a ketogenic diet. Many people report that they sleep less when in nutritional ketosis. We have recently addressed this question in a study of our patients in the Indiana University Health study. We found that global sleep quality, sleep disturbances, and daytime dysfunction parameters all were significantly improved. In addition, the proportion of patients reporting poor sleep was significantly reduced after 1 year²¹. A partial explanation for the mechanism of these benefits may be that the brain’s breathing response to CO2 buildup is improved during nutritional ketosis²².

We need more dietary fiber than is possible on a ketogenic diet. In addition to promoting colon health, there is now strong evidence that short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced from colonic fermentation of fiber also improves brain health. And it is indeed true that the combination of a very high fiber intake plus adequate carbohydrate restriction to sustain nutritional ketosis is difficult to achieve without the use of purified fiber supplements. But what we point out in our blog post on fiber is that the production of beta-hydroxybutyrate can provide many-fold more SCFAs to the brain than a very high fiber diet combined with an optimized microbiome. Thus, the moderate level of fiber that one can achieve with a real-food well-formulated ketogenic diet should be more than adequate to maintain organ health throughout the body.


The need for dietary carbohydrates is often a topic of misunderstanding and misinformation. Although some specific tissues in the body do have certain glucose requirements, these requirements are easily met by gluconeogenic sources within the body without the need for dietary carbohydrate intake. There are also some people who claim a behavioral ‘need’ for bread, but that soon passes after a few weeks of keto-adaptation. The fatigue, stress, impaired cognition and reduced performance that are often used to argue for the need for carbohydrate are more aptly attributable to improper implementation of a well-formulated ketogenic diet, inadequate electrolyte replacement, and/or insufficient time for keto-adaptation. When used correctly, a ketogenic diet can be a safe and sustainable therapeutic tool as well as a means to help promote wellness and performance.

The information we provide at virtahealth.com and blog.virtahealth.com is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.

Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet

Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet

Carbohydrates aren’t bad, but some may be healthier than others. See why carbs are important for your health and which ones to choose.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Carbohydrates often get a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight gain. But carbohydrates aren’t all bad. Because of their numerous health benefits, carbohydrates have a rightful place in your diet. In fact, your body needs carbohydrates to function well.

But some carbohydrates might be better for you than others. Understand more about carbohydrates and how to choose healthy carbohydrates.

Understanding carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient found in many foods and beverages. Most carbohydrates occur naturally in plant-based foods, such as grains. Food manufacturers also add carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of starch or added sugar.

Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Seeds
  • Legumes

Types of carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugar. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Types of sugar include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose).
  • Starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
  • Fiber. Fiber also is a complex carbohydrate. It occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.

More carbohydrate terms: Net carbs and glycemic index

Terms such as “low carb” or “net carbs” often appear on product labels. But the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate these terms, so there’s no standard meaning. Typically “net carbs” is used to mean the amount of carbohydrates in a product excluding fiber, or excluding both fiber and sugar alcohols.

You probably have also heard talk about the glycemic index. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise your blood sugar level.

Weight-loss diets based on the glycemic index typically recommend limiting foods that are higher on the glycemic index. Foods with a relatively high glycemic index ranking include potatoes and white bread, and less healthy options such as snack foods and desserts that contain refined flours.

Many healthy foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products, are naturally lower on the glycemic index.

How many carbohydrates do you need?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your 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 carbohydrates a day.

You can find the carbohydrate content of packaged foods on the Nutrition Facts label. The label shows total carbohydrates — which includes starches, fiber, sugar alcohols, and naturally occurring and added sugars. The label might also list separately total fiber, soluble fiber and sugar.

Carbohydrates and your health

Despite their bad rap, carbohydrates are vital to your health for a number of reasons.

Providing energy

Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source. During digestion, sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they’re known as blood sugar (blood glucose).

From there, glucose enters your body’s cells with the help of insulin. Glucose is used by your body for energy, and fuels all of your activities — whether it’s going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use, or is converted to fat.

Protecting against disease

Some evidence suggests that whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fiber may also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health.

Controlling weight

Evidence shows that eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you control your weight. Their bulk and fiber content aids weight control by helping you feel full on fewer calories. Contrary to what low-carb diets claim, very few studies show that a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity.

Choose your carbohydrates wisely

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, and provide many important nutrients. Still, not all carbs are created equal.

Here’s how to make healthy carbohydrates work in a balanced diet:

  • Emphasize fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Aim for whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar. Other options are fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have more calories. Whole fruits and vegetables also add fiber, water and bulk, which help you feel fuller on fewer calories.
  • Choose whole grains. Whole grains are better sources than refined grains of fiber and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins. Refined grains go through a process that strips out parts of the grain — along with some of the nutrients and fiber.
  • Stick to low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Consider the low-fat versions, to help limit calories and saturated fat. And beware of dairy products that have added sugar.
  • Eat more legumes. Legumes — which include beans, peas and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. They are typically low in fat and high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium, and they contain beneficial fats and fiber. Legumes are a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Limit added sugars. Added sugar probably isn’t harmful in small amounts. But there’s no health advantage to consuming any amount of added sugar. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that less than 10 percent of calories you consume every day come from added sugar.

So choose your carbohydrates wisely. Limit foods with added sugars and refined grains, such as sugary drinks, desserts and candy, which are packed with calories but low in nutrition. Instead, go for fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

April 17, 2020

Show references

  1. Colditz GA. Heathy diet in adults. http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed Nov. 5, 2016.
  2. Feldman M, et al. Digestion and absorption of dietary fat, carbohydrate, and protein. In: Sleisenger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 6, 2016.
  3. Carbohydrate counting and diabetes. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/diabetes-diet-eating/carbohydrate-counting. Accessed Nov. 6, 2016.
  4. Duyff RL. USDA food patterns: Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern. In: American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
  5. Li Y, et al. Saturated fats compared with unsaturated fats and sources of carbohydrates in relation to risk of coronary heart disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2015;66:1538.
  6. Hingle MD, et al. Practice paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Selecting nutrient-dense foods for good health. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116:1473.
  7. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed Nov. 6, 2016.
  8. Bonow RO, et al., eds. Nutrition and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In: Braunwald’s Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 6, 2016.

See more In-depth


Do you need carbs to survive?

Americans certainly have a love-hate relationship when it comes to carbs. European and Asian cultures steadfastly make room for pasta, bread, and rice on their plates, but here in the States, carbs are like fanny-packs: in one day, out the next (and then, back in again?). With the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet dominating as the eating plan of the moment, the current consensus seems to be that carbs are no good.

Keto devotees limit their carb intake to just 5 to 10 percent of their diet—vastly lower than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation that 45 to 65 percent of overall calories come from the macronutrient. The discrepancy between the recs is so big, it feels like both can’t be healthy. So, what’s the deal? Are carbs a vital part of your diet or not?

First, it’s important to know the difference between the various types of carbohydrates out there. “Simple carbs are found in foods like sugary soda and bread, which get absorbed in the body quickly,” explains Wahida Karmally, PH, RDN,CDE, a doctor of public health and special research scientist at Columbia University. “But foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains have complex carbs, which are full of more nutritional benefits and get absorbed slower.” So when experts talk about carbs being “bad,” it’s mainly the first category they’re discouraging—there is merit to consuming the second category of carbohydrates (more on that in a sec).

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Functional medicine practitioner Anthony Gustin, DC, is such a big believer in a low-carb diet that he founded a whole keto company, Perfect Keto. As you might guess, he’s of the mind that you can totally live without carbs—of all types. “Carbohydrates are not important at all,” he says bluntly, saying that while the body can put them to good use, it’s possible to survive without consuming anything at all. “They can be used for energy, but they don’t have to be used for energy.”

Photo: Stocksy/Vera Lair

Gustin explains that when you do eat carbs, the body breaks then down and converts the components to glucose, which then goes into the bloodstream. “Then it’s used for maintenance of red blood cells, brain function, and bodily functions.” Sounds pretty important, right? But while Gustin says blood glucose is indeed vital for fueling the body, breaking down carbohydrates isn’t the only way to make it.

He explains that during a process called gluconeogenesis, non-carbohydrate compounds, like amino acids from protein, are converted to glucose for energy. The body can also use ketones, chemicals created from fat, for energy instead of glucose. (This is, essentially, the whole reasoning behind the keto diet: Without carbs to use for energy, your body will begin to break down fat instead.)

While your body may be able to find other sources of energy, Dr. Karmally warns against cutting carbs out completely—specifically the complex carbs found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. “If you do, you’ll be missing out on a whole host of vitamins and nutrients, including fiber, which helps with digestion. That’s why people who go low-carb and increase their fat and protein intake but not their vegetable intake can end up feeling constipated,” she says. To this point, Dr. Karmally says the body can subsist without carbs—it won’t just suddenly shut down on you—but it certainly won’t be in top form: Missing out on the nutrients in fruits and vegetables could lead to more inflammation.

Board-certified sports nutritionist, registered dietitian, and the nutrition director at Trifecta Nutrition Emmie Satrazemis agrees with Gustin that carbs aren’t technically necessary, but like Dr. Karmally, she warns against cutting them out completely. “Even though they aren’t essential for survival, they’re in the majority of foods we eat, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. So cutting them out completely would mean missing out on so much nutrition,” she explains, echoing Dr. Karmally’s sentiments.

Satrazemis says there isn’t a hard and fast rule on how many carbs is optimal, but she emphasizes that there’s no need to be scared of carbs or worry they’ll lead to weight gain. “Carbs get a bad rap, but when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, it’s more about calories,” she says. “If you’re not eating more calories than you need, then you aren’t going to gain weight—even if your diet includes a sizable percentage of carbs.”

Photo: Stocksy/Darren Muir

What about athletes? Don’t they need carbs? Both Gustin and Satrazemis work with professional athletes and have come to the same conclusion: It depends on the type of sport you do. “If you’re doing something that requires short bursts of energy like sprinting or weight lifting, carbs are a better energy source than protein or fats because they’re stored right in the muscles and are more readily available,” Satrazemis says. “But if you’re doing a more sustained workout, like a long run, healthy fat is an ideal energy source because it’s more low-burning.”

“Carbs get a bad rap, but when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, it’s more about calories.” —Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

But both experts point out that, alas, the average person doesn’t have the same nutritional needs as a professional athlete and most people overestimate their fueling needs. But, hey, if you keep hitting a wall during your workouts, you could try adding carbs to your pre-workout snack and see if it makes a difference.

The bottom line is that you aren’t going to feel great if you cut complex carbs out completely—even if you could technically survive. According to Dr. Karmally, “People need to focus less on specific nutrients and more on eating whole, real foods because they are going to get more nutritional benefits that way.”

One major dietary point all three experts agree on: Eating unprocessed, real foods should be the goal no matter what. As Gustin aptly puts it, “It doesn’t matter if your diet is low-carb or high-carb, whatever it is, the key should be eating a 100 percent real food, whole foods diet.”

If you’re trying to figure out which healthy eating plan is best for you, check out this guide. Plus, what you need to know about carb backloading. 

Why Carbohydrates Need to Stay in Our Diet

Carbohydrates are essential for optimal health and fitness. Unfortunately, many fad diets recommend eliminating carbs from our daily food intake. Convincing marketing has the general populous believing carbohydrates make us fat. Carb bashing has caused many of us to eliminate this very important macronutrient from our nutrition. 

Carbohydrates may get most of the blame for keeping America fat, but this is far from the truth. In fact, carbs are the primary energy source needed for the human body. They are a macronutrient which means the body requires lots of carbs to function at optimum levels. Understanding their role should cause us to question leaving carbs out of our diet. How is removing a food group essential to body functioning a good thing? Instead of eliminating carbohydrates, what should be clarified is the type of carbs we should be eating for improved health and fitness. 

Carbohydrates Provide Energy

When we eat carbohydrates, we provide our body with fuel (energy) to function at every physiological level. Our digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which feeds energy to our cells, tissues, and organs. Energy not utilized immediately is stored in our muscles and liver where our body uses it on an as-needed basis. Without adequate carbohydrate consumption, our body may experience feeling tired, headache, lethargic and unable to push through a workout. 

What continues to be a problem is all carbohydrates lumped together as bad for you and considered the reason for weight gain and poor health. There appears to be a lack of understanding about the right kind of carbs to keep in our diet for the body to function well. Also, athletic performance can be adversely affected without an adequate amount of carbohydrates. Our body requires all fuel sources, including carbohydrates, to perform at its best in and out of the gym. 

The Breakdown

Carbohydrates provide energy through a digestive process that breaks down sugars and starches to create simple sugars. The simple sugars are then absorbed into our bloodstream and become glucose or blood sugar. The pancreas releases insulin in response to blood sugar and working together enable glucose to enter our cells. Glucose fuels all our physical activities from sitting to watch a movie, breathing or engaging in a workout. Additional energy or glucose is stored in our muscles and liver for later use or is converted to fat.

The possibility of carbohydrates converting to fat is the buzz statement marketed to sell fad diets. We tend to focus only on fat stores potentially caused by eating carbs instead of how essential they are to support body function.

Studies indicate carbohydrates including leafy greens, vegetables, and whole grains are shown to help us reduce body fat, gain muscle, and improve athletic performance. It appears better carbohydrate education is recommended on how to make healthier choices for this important macronutrient. 

Other Carbohydrate Health Benefits

Carbs have been shown to protect the body against certain disease and cancer. Complex carbohydrates like oatmeal are rich in fiber and when consumed regularly indicated to reduce the risk of hypertension and heart problems. Additional health benefits include reduced incidence of obesity, protection against Type-2 diabetes and an optimal digestive system. Carbohydrates are also shown to promote weight loss and the ability to maintain the goal weight.

Contrary to fad diet claims, evidence shows healthy carbohydrate selection isn’t linked to weight gain or obesity. Research indicates carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet providing vital nutrients the body requires for optimal functioning. Because carbs aren’t created equal, it will be the consistent selection and consumption of good carbohydrates keeping our body within healthy weights and feeling our best.

Carbs for Health and Fitness

The two main types of carbohydrates are simple and complex. Simple carbs include sugars naturally occurring in foods like fruits, vegetables, and milk. Added sugars found in prepared or processed foods are also listed under the simple carb category but aren’t as healthy. They have fewer nutrients than foods with naturally-occurring sugars. Simple carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly providing rapid energy for body functions. Many active adults and athletes will consume raisins or banana prior to a workout and feel this provides adequate energy for the session. Other simple carbs are known for their superior antioxidants and high nutrient value include:

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs include fiber and starch and take longer to digest before the body can use the glucose as an energy source. Samples of healthy complex carbs include whole grain bread, quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans, most vegetables, and oats. It’s recommended to wait at least an hour to exercise after consuming complex carbs to avoid possible stomach upset. Many individuals also combine a protein source like egg whites with complex carbs, especially if preparing for an intense weight training session.

Complex carbs are higher in nutrient value than simple carbohydrates and should make up the largest percent of our nutrition. The following complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals:

  • Leafy greens and vegetables
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Legumes
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Fruits (apples and berries)  

A Word From Verywell

The body functions at its best when healthy selections of both simple and complex carbs are consumed on a regular basis. Learning how to select the best carbohydrates to maintain a healthy body will reduce the anxiety surrounding all the hype about not eating carbs and enable a more simplistic and realistic approach to eating healthy. 

Why Carbohydrates Are Important for Your Diet

If you choose a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss and take in fewer calories, you will lose weight. Generally these diets involve eating less bread and pasta and more vegetables, fruits, and meat. Although low-carbohydrate diets work well early on, after six months they do not work any better than any other diets for weight loss.

“If you stop eating carbohydrates, you rapidly lose water weight as your body breaks down the stored carbohydrates,” explains Darwin Deen, MD, senior attending physician at Montefiore Medical Center’s Department of Family and Social Medicine in the Bronx, New York. “The problem is that a low-carbohydrate diet is not a normal balance of physiologic nutrition. As soon as you start eating carbohydrates again, your body replenishes your carbohydrate stores and your weight comes back,” says Dr. Deen.

Eat the Right Carbohydrates for Weight Loss

“Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which can add variety, color, and flavor to meals. Whole grains such as whole wheat, corn tortillas, and brown rice are great sources of healthy carbohydrates. Check the nutritional label for carbohydrate information, including total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and sugars,” says Logan.

Here are ideas for getting the right carbs in your diet: Start your day with a breakfast of whole-grain cereal and fruit. Add an extra serving of vegetables to lunch and dinner. For easy between-meal snacks right at your fingertips, keep raw, cut-up vegetables in the refrigerator. Substitute beans as a main course in place of meat once every week. Eat a whole fruit as your dessert.

Get Your Personal Carbohydrate Guidelines

U.S. guidelines suggest that between 45 and 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates. At the USDA Web site, you can enter your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level to find out exactly how many calories in your diet should be from carbohydrates. You will also find the “Easy Fiber Estimator,” which will tell you how many grams of fiber ought to be in every 1,000 calories you eat. For example, if you are on a diet of 2,000 calories, you will want to get 28 grams of dietary fiber.

Concentrate on Calories and Nutrition

The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends a balanced eating pattern. If you need to lose weight, you should decrease your calories gradually and increase your physical activity. Choose fiber-rich carbohydrate foods and avoid added sugars. Making healthy carbohydrate choices while reducing calories and increasing physical activity is the healthiest path to weight loss.

Carbohydrates 101: The benefits of carbohydrates

Though there are many benefits of carbohydrates, you need to make sure you’re eating them in moderation. A carbohydrate-intensive diet can cause high blood sugar and unwanted weight gain. But it’s important that you eat an appropriate amount of healthy carbohydrates in order to meet your body’s nutritional needs and maintain a healthy weight.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients – along with proteins and fats – that your body requires daily. There are three main types of carbohydrates: starches, fiber, and sugars. Starches are often referred to as complex carbohydrates. They are found in grains legumes and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. Sugars are known as simple carbohydrates. There are natural sugars in vegetables, fruits, milk, and honey. Added sugars are found in processed foods, syrups, sugary drinks, and sweets.

Why do you need carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy: They help fuel your brain, kidneys, heart muscles, and central nervous system. For instance, fiber is a carbohydrate that aids in digestion, helps you feel full, and keeps blood cholesterol levels in check. Your body can store extra carbohydrates in your muscles and liver for use when you’re not getting enough carbohydrates in your diet. A carbohydrate-deficient diet may cause headaches, fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation, bad breath and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

What are some healthy sources of carbohydrates?

To reap the benefits of carbohydrates, you should choose carbohydrates loaded with nutrients. Christie Ferriell, a registered dietitian and nutrition manager at Reid Health, recommends you get at least half of your carbohydrates from whole grains. Ferriell notes that “whole grains provide fiber that helps you feel full and satisfied with smaller portions.” Ferriell recommends you try making quinoa pilaf with tofu and vegetables a heart-healthy recipe containing fiber- and protein-rich quinoa from Reid’s I Heart Cooking program.

Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods (containing 12 grams of carbohydrates or more per serving) include

  • Whole grains: quinoa, amaranth, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain pasta and whole-grain breakfast cereals
  • Fruits: berries, citrus fruits, melons, apples, pears, bananas and kiwifruit
  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, yams, corn. peas and carrots
  • Legumes: lentils, black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chick peas and soybeans
  • Milk products: low-fat milk, plain yogurt and soy yogurt

Healthy foods lower in carbohydrates (less than 10 grams per serving) include

  • Nonstarchy vegetables: leafy greens, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts and pistachios
  • Soy milk and tofu

How many grams of carbohydrates do you need?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest that most adults get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates. Since carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, you should consume 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates on a daily basis if you’re following a 2000-calorie diet.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture you should consume at the very least the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of carbohydrates which is 130 grams for adults 175 grams for women who are pregnant and 210 grams for women who are breastfeeding. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women should consume 25 grams of fiber daily , while men should consume 38 grams of fiber daily.

What if I have diabetes?

If you have diabetes, you should see a doctor or dietitian who can help you plan meals to control your blood sugar. Though your daily carbohydrate requirements are the same as those for someone without diabetes, it’s important to avoid eating too many carbohydrates in one sitting. The American Diabetes Association suggests you should limit your intake to about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal.

The bottom line

You should avoid added sugar, processed foods, refined grains (like white bread), sodas, other sugary drinks, and sweets as much as possible. To help you look and feel your best, you should choose nutrient-dense healthy carbohydrates.

90,000 Benefits and harms of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates taste good, help you achieve phenomenal muscle pumping, and are widely considered to be the healthiest of all nutrients.

What are their disadvantages?

The flip side of the coin here is the accumulation of fat. A consistent carbohydrate-dominated diet stimulates the release of insulin, which in turn causes a rise in body fat. The art is to find the right balance between type and timing of intake, as not all carbohydrates are created equal.

Eating a lot of “wrong” carbohydrates at the “wrong” time of day can turn even a genetically gifted athlete into a fat-swollen endomorph.

What is the need for carbohydrates?

The scourge of misinformed dieters, carbohydrates are actually the body’s main source of energy. During digestion, the main types of carbohydrates, starches and sugars, are broken down into glucose, more commonly known as blood sugar.Blood glucose provides the necessary energy for our brain and central nervous system.

Carbohydrates are essential in your daily diet so that protein needed to build tissue is not wasted as an energy source where it is needed for recovery. They have the same calorie content as protein. If you eat too many carbohydrates, more than can be converted to glucose or glycogen (which is stored in the liver and muscles), the result, as we all know all too well, is fat.When the body needs more fuel, fat is converted back to glucose and body weight is reduced.

Don’t be too light on carbs. They are as essential to health as other nutrients, and a gram of carbohydrates contains the same 4 calories as a gram of protein. Although there are no official guidelines for carbohydrate intake, a minimum of 50 grams per day is recommended.

What is the glycemic index? Basically, it is an indicator that determines the change in blood glucose (sugar), that is, how much your blood sugar increases depending on a particular food eaten.The higher the glycemic index of a product, the higher when it enters the body, the blood sugar level will rise, which, in turn, will entail the body’s production of a powerful portion of insulin, with the help of which the eaten carbohydrates will not be stored in the form of glycogen in the liver. and muscles, but will be sent mainly to fat depots.

I would like to note that the glycemic index is a relative concept. Glucose was taken as the basis for its compilation, its glycemic index was equated to 100, and the indices of all other products make up a certain percentage of the glycemic index of glucose.For example, the GI (short for the glycemic index) of hot boiled potatoes is 98, the GI of white bread is 69, and the GI of raisins is 64.

But what are the GIs of some other products: Maltose-105, Glucose-100, Hot boiled potatoes-98, Carrots-92, White rice-72, Whole flour bread-72, Young potatoes-70, White bread-69, Bar ” Mars “-68, Brown rice-66, Raisin-64, Sweet corn-59, Mango-51, Oatmeal-49, Bananas-49, Kiwi-49, Sweet potatoes-48, Orange juice-46, Whole flour pasta- 42, Grapes-42, Oranges-40, Peaches-40, Apples-39, Yogurt-36, Ice Cream-36, Whole Milk-34, Sausages-23, Cherry-20.However, in pursuit of a slim figure, you should not go too far in terms of choosing carbohydrates with the lowest GI. For example, the GI of ice cream is quite low – only 36, but this does not mean that ice cream is an ideal product for a diet aimed at losing weight. I would like to draw attention to one more feature of GI: if carbohydrates are consumed hot, then their GI is significantly higher than cold. And one more thing: if a carbohydrate-containing product is consumed together with proteins and, especially, carbohydrates, then the GI of such a product becomes significantly lower.In other words, if you eat a bowl of hot potatoes with a piece of fatty meat, then the carbohydrates from the potatoes will enter the bloodstream 2-3 times slower.

The relationship of estrogen and the risk of cardiovascular disease

High insulin resistance and decreased glucose tolerance are recognized risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It is known that some estrogens lead to an increase in insulin resistance and a decrease in glucose tolerance, in other words, estrogens accelerate the process of increasing blood glucose, therefore, women who consume large amounts of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than men.

Diet to normalize cholesterol levels.

“Bad” and “Good” cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is vital for humans. It is part of the membranes (membranes) of all cells in the body, there is a lot of cholesterol in the nervous tissue, and many hormones are formed from cholesterol. About 80% of cholesterol is produced by the body itself, the remaining 20% ​​comes from food. Atherosclerosis occurs when there is a lot of low-density cholesterol in the blood.It damages the lining of the inner wall of the vessel, accumulates in it, as a result of which atherosclerotic plaques are formed, which then turn into gruel, calcify and clog the vessel. High blood cholesterol – an increased risk of heart disease. In our organs it contains about 200 g, and especially a lot in the nervous tissue and the brain.

For a long time, cholesterol was considered literally the personification of evil. Cholesterol-containing foods were outlawed, and cholesterol-free diets were extremely popular.The main accusation was based on the fact that atherosclerotic plaques on the inner surface of the vessels contain cholesterol. These plaques are the cause of atherosclerosis, that is, violations of the elasticity and patency of blood vessels, and this, in turn, is the cause of heart attacks, strokes, brain diseases and many other ailments. In fact, it turned out that for the prevention of atherosclerosis, it is important not only to monitor cholesterol levels, but also to pay attention to many factors. Infectious diseases, physical activity, the state of the nervous system, and finally, heredity – all this affects the vessels and can provoke atherosclerosis or, conversely, protect against it.

And with cholesterol itself, everything turned out to be not so simple. Scientists have established that there is both “bad” and “good” cholesterol. And for the prevention of atherosclerosis, it is not enough to reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol. It is important to maintain at the proper level “good”, without which the normal functioning of internal organs is impossible.

Every day, the average person’s body synthesizes 1 to 5 g of cholesterol. The largest proportion of cholesterol (80%) is synthesized in the liver, some is produced by the cells of the body, and 300-500 mg comes from food.Where are we spending all this? About 20% of the total amount of cholesterol in the body is found in the brain and spinal cord, where this substance is a structural component of the myelin sheath of nerves. In the liver, bile acids are synthesized from cholesterol, which are necessary for the emulsification and absorption of fats in the small intestine. For these purposes, 60-80% of the daily cholesterol formed in the body is spent. But most (2-4%) goes to the formation of steroid hormones (sex hormones, adrenal cortex hormones, etc.)). A certain amount of cholesterol is used for the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin under the influence of ultraviolet rays and for the retention of moisture in the cells of the body.

Thanks to laboratory studies carried out by a group of researchers from Germany and Denmark, it was found that the component of blood plasma, which can not only bind, but also neutralize dangerous bacterial toxins, are low density lipoproteins – carriers of the so-called “bad” cholesterol. It turns out that “bad” cholesterol helps maintain the human immune system.Therefore, you just need to make sure that the level of “bad” cholesterol does not exceed the known norm, and everything will be in order.

In men, a strict adherence to cholesterol-free foods can adversely affect sexual activity, and in women who are too active in the fight against cholesterol, amenorrhea often occurs. Dutch doctors argue that the low content of this substance in the blood is to blame for the spread of mental illness among Europeans. Experts advise: if you have depression, you need to do a blood test for cholesterol – perhaps it is the lack of it that deprives you of the joy of life.

The rate of cholesterol in the blood

According to the official recommendations of the European Society of Atherosclerosis (in the West it is a very respected organization), “normal” levels of fatty fractions in the blood should be as follows:

1. Total cholesterol – less than 5 mmol / l.

2. Low density lipoprotein cholesterol – less than 3 mmol / l.

3. Cholesterol of high density lipoproteins – more than 1.5 mmol / l.

4. Triglycerides – less than 2.0 mmol / l.

It is not enough to simply give up foods that cause the production of “bad” cholesterol. It is important to regularly consume foods containing the so-called “good” cholesterol, as well as fiber, pectin, in order to maintain its level in the norm and help remove excess “bad” cholesterol.

• Good cholesterol is found in fatty fish such as tuna and mackerel. Therefore, eat 100 g of sea fish 2 times a week.This will help keep the blood thinned and prevent blood clots from forming, which are at high risk for high cholesterol levels.

• Nuts are a very fatty food, but the fats that are found in a variety of nuts are mostly monounsaturated, that is, very useful for the body. It is recommended to eat 30 g of nuts 5 times a week, and for medicinal purposes you can use not only hazelnuts and walnuts, but also almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios.Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds perfectly increase the level of good cholesterol. You eat 30 g of nuts by eating, for example, 7 walnuts or 22 grains of almonds, 18 cashews or 47 pistachios, 8 Brazil nuts.

• Of vegetable oils, give preference to olive oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, and sesame seed oil. But in no case fry in oils, but add them to ready-made food. It is also useful to just eat olives and any soy products (but make sure that the packaging says that the product does not contain genetically modified components).

• To eliminate “bad” cholesterol, be sure to eat 25-35 grams of fiber per day. Fiber is found in bran, whole grains, seeds, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Drink bran on an empty stomach, 2-3 teaspoons, be sure to wash them down with a glass of water.

• Don’t forget apples and other fruits that contain pectin, which helps flush excess cholesterol from the blood vessels. There are a lot of pectins in citrus fruits, sunflowers, beets, watermelon peels.This valuable substance improves metabolism, removes toxins and salts of heavy metals, which is especially important in unfavorable environmental conditions.

• Juice therapy is indispensable to remove excess cholesterol from the body. Among fruit juices, orange, pineapple and grapefruit (especially with the addition of lemon juice), as well as apple are especially useful. Any berry juices are also very good. For vegetable juices, traditional medicine recommends potent beet and carrot juices, but if your liver is not working perfectly, start with a teaspoon of juice.

• Very useful for high cholesterol green tea, which kills two birds with one stone – helps to raise the level of “good” cholesterol in the blood and reduce the level of “bad”. Cholesterol is necessary for the human body, but an excess of it is definitely harmful. It is also dangerous to deviate from the norm in the direction of lowering the concentration of cholesterol. And remember – the probability of earning atherosclerosis is minimal if you:

• are cheerful, in harmony with themselves and with the people around you;

• do not smoke;

• are not addicted to alcohol;

• love long walks in the fresh air;

• are not overweight, you have normal blood pressure;

• do not have abnormalities in the hormonal sphere.

Prepared foods Cholesterol (mg):

Milk 6%, fermented baked milk 1 glass – 47. Boiled beef – 100 g -94. Kefir 1%, milk 1% – 1 glass 6. Boiled lamb 100g -98. Condensed milk 1 tsp -2. Boiled pork without fat 100g -88. Milk 3%, kefir 3% 1 glass -29. Boiled rabbit 100 g -90. Skimmed kefir, skim milk (skimmed) 1 glass -2. Cooked sausage 100g – 60. Raw smoked sausage 100g – 90. Sour cream 30% 1hl -5. Cooked-smoked sausage 100g – 90.Sour cream 30% 1/2 cup -91. Sausages (1 pc.) -32. Cream 20% 1/2 cup -63. Fat, loin, brisket 100g – 80. Fat-free cottage cheese 100g – 9. Kidneys 100g – 1126. Fat cottage cheese 18% 100g – 57. Tongue 100g – 90. Curd 9% 100g – 32. Liver 100g 438 Curd cheese – 100g 71 Cheese fatty – 25 g 23 Lamb fat 1 tsp. 4 Processed cheese and salted cheeses (feta cheese, etc.) 25g – 17. Mayonnaise 1 tsp – 5. Canned fish in tomato 100g – 51. Milk ice cream 100g – 14. Canned fish in its own juice 100g – 95. Ice cream 100g – 47.Creamy ice cream 100g – 37. Canned cod liver 100g – 746. Butter 1 tsp. – 12. Fish of medium fat content – sea bass – 88. Egg (yolk) – 202. Poultry (goose, duck) 100 g – 91. Low-fat fish – cod, navaga, hake, pike perch 100g – 65. Chickens, white meat – breast with skin 100g – 80. Chickens, dark meat – leg, back, neck with skin 100g – 91. Shrimps 100g – 150. Crabs, squids 100g – 95. Chicken stomach 100g – 212. Fish caviar (red, black) 100g – 300.

3 myths about carbohydrates that prevent you from living

What is the problem

“At night, only meat without bread”, “All these cookies will settle on your waist” … What we just do not hear about these evil and terrible carbohydrates! We are sure that you can definitely supplement this list with the sayings of your losing weight friends and quotes from the books of smart nutritionists.

However, carbohydrates are not at all as scary as they are described. After all, it is one of the three main nutrients (along with proteins and fats) that a person needs. It is the main source of energy for the brain, muscles and the body as a whole. Carbohydrates are essential for the normal functioning of every person.

So what’s the catch? Saying “carbohydrates are poison” usually does not mean fruits, vegetables, herbs or cereals, but products such as flour (bread, buns, cookies) and sweets (sweets, cakes, soft drinks).

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. It is important to remember what exactly and in what quantity should be included in your diet. To do this, let’s take a look at the most common misconceptions about carbohydrates and scientifically proven facts about them.

Myths about carbohydrates

1. You get fat from carbohydrates

Of course, it is easier to blame any product for all the sins than to comprehensively approach your diet planning. The fact is that carbohydrate-containing foods are delicious and many cannot resist supplementation.Only this will not be an additional portion of vegetables and fruits, but another packet of chips or a packet of cookies.

They get fat not from carbohydrates, but from overeating.

Include more unprocessed natural foods in your diet and control your consumption of refined sugar. Remember: if you consume more calories than your body needs (even if they come from protein or fat), weight will increase.

2. Fast carbohydrates cannot be useful

Carbohydrates are simple (fast) and complex (slow).It is believed that the former is very bad, and the latter is very good. And it is worth dwelling on this point in more detail.

All carbohydrates are composed of structural units – saccharides. The more there are, the more complex the carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates are composed of one (monosaccharides) or two (disaccharides) such units. Complex ones consist of three or more units. Our intestines are only able to absorb monosaccharides. The challenge for the rest of the gastrointestinal tract is to break down the carbohydrate to its simplest form.

Thus, a simple carbohydrate does not need to be broken down, because it enters the body in a ready-made form.And therefore, it immediately enters the bloodstream, sharply increasing the level of insulin. It is quickly digested and does not give a feeling of satiety, which is why it is considered fast. Complex carbohydrates require processing, so sugar enters the bloodstream gradually, and we get a long-lasting feeling of fullness.

Fast carbohydrates are sugar, honey, dairy products, fruits, processed grains, and ground cereals. Complex carbohydrates are vegetables, herbs, legumes, cereals, and whole grains.

But does this mean that now you need to eat only slow carbohydrates? Of course not!

It’s all about fiber.Fiber is the coarse fiber found in all unprocessed plant foods. It is not absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby slowing down the absorption of sugar and its entry into the blood. Eating fiber-rich carbohydrates will give you a long lasting feeling of fullness and won’t add unwanted pounds.

Fast carbohydrates with fiber are not harmful, eat them without fear. But without it – be careful! Choose a juicy pear over a bun, and cook brown or wild instead of white polished rice.

3. If you want to be in shape, forget about bread and pasta

Sounds plausible, especially if you listen to ardent fans of carbohydrate-free diets like Ducan or Atkins. Especially when they mention the magic word ketosis.

Ketosis is a condition when, in the absence of carbohydrates, the body begins to break down fats for energy. Sounds tempting? No matter how it is.

With the breakdown of fats, a large number of ketone bodies are formed. If carbohydrates are absent in the diet for a short time, then these bodies do not pose a danger to humans.But in the case of prolonged carbohydrate starvation, the concentration of ketone bodies in the blood increases sharply. And this causes poisoning, up to a ketoacidotic coma and death.

If you are not afraid of health problems, and only appearance is important, remember: in ketosis, your body will smell like acetone, such as nail polish remover.

Yes, low-carb diets will give you a quick weight loss effect, but they can also harm your health. And studies by have long confirmed that it is equally losing weight on a diet with a normal carbohydrate content, and with their restriction.The main thing is to consume any food in moderation.

How much carbohydrates to eat

Scientists say that carbohydrates should make up 50-60% of the daily diet. Adherents of the “China Study” prefer plant-based carbohydrates to anything, advising them to fill the diet with them by 90-100%.

How to resolve this issue for yourself is solely your choice. With balance, you will always have enough energy for new beginnings and not a single extra gram on your sides.

Summing up the results

  • Carbohydrates are not only cookies and cakes, pasta and sweets. Carbohydrates are fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits and an endless variety of cereals.
  • Carbohydrates are essential for everyone’s life. Eliminating them completely from the diet can lead to serious health problems.
  • Fast carbohydrates are delicious and enjoyable if you know which ones to choose (natural and rich in coarse fibers).
  • Fashionable diets can say anything, the main thing is to critically perceive any information and correlate it with their needs and preferences.

How do you feel about carbohydrates? What do you prefer more: flour and sweet or vegetables and cereals? Share your opinion in the comments.

Fats or Carbohydrates? What is better to limit? Scientific approach :: Health :: RBK Style

Opinion of the scientific community

Until now, doctors and scientists have not come to a consensus that it is better to limit the diet – fats or carbohydrates.At the last European Congress on Obesity, held in Vienna last month, this issue, as always, was discussed, but scientists again could not say unequivocally what is better to exclude a person who is losing weight from the diet. The disputes go on endlessly, but there are no concrete conclusions. There are several points of view.

It seems logical to me that it is better and more effective to limit the consumption of fat. The fact is that fats are synthesized faster into fat in the human body.

It is important to make a reservation here that insulin is released into the blood from carbohydrates, which also triggers the process of weight gain.However, now the situation with carbohydrates has changed. People think they eat sweets, but they eat fat along with sugar. Most often, carbohydrate food is understood as the so-called heavy desserts: cakes, cookies, buns and others. These are not net carbs, but carbs with fats, further exacerbating the situation. If you consume complex carbohydrates (whole grains) without added fat, there will be no jump in blood sugar, as well as extra calories, and the feeling of fullness will persist for a long time.

But, nevertheless, if we talk about what is more profitable to exclude from the diet for weight loss, I insist that it is still better to give up fat.If only because in 1 g of fat – about 9 kcal, and in 1 g of carbohydrates – about 4 kcal. If you count in 100 g, then this is 900 kcal of fat and 400 kcal of carbohydrates. Therefore, by cutting back on fat and heavy desserts that contain fats, you will significantly lighten your diet in terms of calories.

Please note that “hidden” fats are now present in very many products: semi-finished products, sausages, cheeses, sauces, frozen meals and others.

Choosing a lean diet

A diet with limited fat is primarily Mediterranean.Olive oil is probably the main source of fat in this diet, as well as fat from marine fish. Seafood contains virtually no fat. This diet is high in fiber – from fresh vegetables and carbohydrates (pasta, brown rice).

It is also effective to simply start limiting fat on a daily basis. The easiest way out is to change the way you cook. Stop frying foods and start baking or grilling them. In addition, it is useful to exclude fatty sauces and convenience foods from the diet. Observe the “one touch” rule when the product gets into your hands without preliminary processing.

By reducing calories by eliminating fat, you can maintain portion size by using plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and oil-free side dishes. It is tasty, satisfying and at the same time low in calories.

There is such a flow of fat in the diet of a modern person that it is useful for everyone to reduce its use. And especially for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes.

Healthy and unhealthy fats

At the same time, fats are the building blocks of the cell membrane.Fats are essential for the assimilation of vital fat-soluble vitamins, for the synthesis of hormones and for the nutrition of the heart muscle. The brain is made up of fat and needs to be nourished. Therefore, you should not completely eliminate fats.

“Good” fats are fats from vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, and fatty fish.

“Bad” fats are saturated animal fats that “freeze”, and of course, trans fats.

Carbohydrate-free diets

The protein diet is the most prominent example of a carbohydrate-restricted diet.It contains only proteins and fiber. A protein diet is close to sports nutrition, it allows you to increase muscle mass, dry out the body and make it more prominent. At the same time, it significantly loads the kidneys and is not suitable for many gastrointestinal problems.

A carbohydrate-free diet, close to sports nutrition, can be shown to absolutely healthy athletes with certain requests.

© Prudence Earl / Unsplash

Useful and unhealthy carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are primarily a source of energy, good mood and well-being.We need carbohydrates, and it is very unwise to categorically refuse them. The cells of the brain, eyeball, renal tubules feed only on glucose, and in the absence of carbohydrates in the diet, they will die.

Distinguish between complex carbohydrates and simple ones. Complex ones are whole grains, durum wheat pasta, bran bread. These are useful carbohydrates that should be included in the human diet.

There are simple or fast carbohydrates that you can live without and that lead to weight gain.These are, for example, sugar, honey, jam, white flour products.

If you decide to lose weight, definitely exclude fats from your diet. A couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil per day will be sufficient. If you dream of a lean body and do athletics – your diet is protein with the addition of complex carbohydrates. Ideally, and for the greatest health benefits, your diet should be as balanced as possible.

Zozhnik | Why eat carbohydrates

For some reason, people decided to declare war on carbohydrates.We are intimidated by the general “protein addiction”, so let’s find out what carbohydrates are and once again discuss the principles of proper nutrition.

What are carbohydrates

From the point of view of chemistry, carbohydrates are a class of organic substances that include carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. In the body, there are only about 2-3% of them, which are deposited in the form of glycogen (roughly speaking, an operational energy reserve). 5-6% of the total mass of the liver, up to 0.5% of the heart and 2-3% of skeletal muscles are carbohydrates.

In the body of a 70-kilogram man, there are about 500 g of glycogen, but besides it there is also glucose, which in free form “floats” in the blood.It is very small – about 5 grams. The more trained a person is, the more glycogen he can store.

The human body can synthesize carbohydrates, but in insignificant quantities, therefore the main amount of carbohydrates enters the body with food. Carbohydrates are found primarily in plant foods. For example, cereals contain about 80% of the total dry weight. And for example sugar is generally 99.98% carbohydrate.

What are carbohydrates for

Carbohydrates have their own tasks:

Energy: carbohydrates provide 50-60% of the body’s daily energy consumption.During the oxidation of 1 g of carbohydrates, 17 kJ of energy is released, or the more familiar to us 4.1 kcal and 0.4 g of water. Therefore, when you stop eating carbohydrates, you first “drain”, that is, the previously stored water comes out of you. This process is mistaken by many for true fat burning, while glycogen stores are only depleted.

The main source of energy for us is glycogen stored in the liver and muscles and free glucose in the blood, which were formed from eaten carbohydrates.

Plastic or construction: some enzymes, cell membranes are “built” from carbohydrates, they are also part of polysaccharides and complex proteins of cartilage, bone and other tissues.Carbohydrates are stored as a supply of nutrients, and are also part of complex molecules (for example, ribose and deoxyribose) and participate in the construction of a universal source of energy ATP, a “repository” of genetic information DNA and a macromolecule contained in cells – RNA.

Specific: carbohydrates, for example, play the role of anticoagulants, that is, they make sure that the blood does not clot at the most inopportune moment. They are receptors for a number of hormones or pharmacological substances – that is, they help hormones to recognize where and how much they are needed.They also have an antitumor effect.

Nutrient supply : Carbohydrates accumulate in skeletal muscle, liver, heart and some other tissues in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is a rapidly mobilized energy reserve. The function of liver glycogen is to provide glucose to the entire body, the function of glycogen in muscles is to provide energy for physical activity.

Protective: complex carbohydrates are part of the components of the immune system.Mucopolysaccharides are found in mucous substances that cover the surface of the vessels of the nose, bronchi, digestive tract, urinary tract and protect against the penetration of bacteria and viruses, as well as against mechanical damage.

Regulatory: food fiber does not lend itself to the digestion process in the intestine, but activates intestinal motility, enzymes used in the digestive tract, improving digestion and absorption of nutrients.

What are carbohydrates

Bread, cereals, pasta, vegetables, fruits, sugar – these are all products of plant origin, which consist mainly of carbohydrates or mono-, di- and polysaccharides.

Monosaccharides: are simple carbohydrates that are not degraded by digestive enzymes. Glucose and fructose are monosaccharides found in many fruits, juices, and honey and are called sugars. They enter the body as by themselves, if, for example, you ate a spoonful of sugar, or are formed during digestion from more complex carbohydrates.

As soon as there is a lot of free glucose in the body, the pancreas is activated, which secretes the hormone insulin, thanks to which glucose is redirected to the tissues, where it is used for glycogen synthesis, and in case of a significant excess, for the synthesis of fats (this is the effect of extra cakes and abuse of fruit juices!) In order for monosaccharides to be our friends, and not enemies, their amount in the diet should not exceed 25-35% of the total amount of carbohydrates eaten per day.

Roughly speaking, for every 2 teaspoons of sugar (monosaccharides or simple carbohydrates), you need to consume 100 grams of oatmeal (complex carbohydrates).

Stay in control with simple carbohydrates

Nowadays it is very fashionable to replace glucose with fructose under the auspices, which is supposedly more useful and it is not stored as fat. This is not true: glucose and fructose are siblings. They are distinguished only by the fact that glucose contains an aldehyde functional group, and fructose contains a keto group.

Disaccharides: is a constituent of oligosaccharides, which consists of 2-10 monosaccharides. The main disaccharides are sucrose (common table sugar), consisting of glucose and fructose residues, maltose (malt extracts of cereals, sprouted grains) or two glucose residues connected to each other, lactose (milk sugar) containing glucose and galactose residues. All disaccharides have a sweetish taste.

Polysaccharides: are complex carbohydrates consisting of many hundreds or thousands of monosaccharides linked together.This type of carbohydrate is found in starch (potatoes, cereals, bread, rice, etc.), in “animal starch” – glycogen, in dietary fiber and pectin (fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, bran, etc.) and easily digestible inulin ( Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, onion, garlic, bananas, barley, rye).

How many carbohydrates do you need?

WHO and RAMS recommend eating 4 g of carbohydrates for each kg of body weight. That is, for a girl weighing 60 kg, you need to eat 240 g of carbohydrates. This is about 360 g of boiled round rice, or 1.5 kg of boiled potatoes, or 2.6 kg of sweet apples, or 12 kg of celery.

4 g per kg of weight – these are recommendations for inactive people. For slightly moderately active, the norm is 5-6 g, for moderately active (for example, 3 strength training per week for an hour) – 6-7 g. Athletes are recommended to eat at least 8-10 g of carbohydrates for each kg of their muscular body.

What if without them? Risks of protein (carbohydrate-free) diets

Yes, humans are a proteinaceous form of life that can exist without eating carbohydrates, but this is unhealthy, illiterate, and in the long run will harm your health.Because a decrease in the carbohydrate content of food increases the breakdown of cellular proteins, the oxidation of fats and the formation of ketone bodies, which can lead to acidosis, that is, increase the acidity in the body.

Usually, the oxidation products of organic acids are quickly removed from the body, but during fasting or a low-carbohydrate diet, they remain in the body, which at best will lead to the appearance of acetoacetic acid and acetone in the urine, and in severe cases can lead to coma (this happens with diabetics) …

Careful with Ducan’s protein diets

“Dyukanovites” have metabolic acidosis – with a lack of carbohydrates, acidic foods accumulate in the tissues, that is, keto or lactic acidosis occurs.

Ketoacidosis occurs due to insulin deficiency. When you eat critically low carbohydrates (less than 2 g per kg of body) for quite a long time, then the body feeds itself with energy from glycogen and stored fats. The brain receives energy mainly by utilizing glucose and acetone is a toxic substance for it.Direct breakdown of fats cannot provide the necessary energy to the brain, and since glycogen stores are relatively small (500 g) and are depleted during the first days after refusing carbohydrates, the body can provide the brain with energy either through gluconeogenesis (internal glucose synthesis), or by increasing the concentration of ketone bodies in the blood to switch other tissues and organs to an alternative source of energy.

Normally, with a deficiency of carbohydrate food, the liver synthesizes ketone bodies from acetyl-CoA – ketosis occurs, which does not cause electrolyte disturbances (this is a variant of the norm).However, in a number of uncompromising cases, decompensation and development of acidosis is also possible and can lead to diabetic ketoacidotic coma.

Fats in low-carbohydrate diets are burned worse than in a normal, balanced diet, since fats are usually combined with carbohydrates for subsequent conversion into energy, and with a lack of carbohydrates, fat is incompletely burned, and a by-product is formed – ketones, which accumulate in the blood and urine what causes ketosis.Ketosis leads to a decrease in appetite (the body thinks that it is on the verge of survival), decreased performance, lethargy, fatigue and irritability become the norm.

Overkill with carbohydrates

A systematic overload of carbohydrates leads to a predominance of fermentation processes in the intestines, as well as obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus of the second type, since part of the carbohydrates turns into fats and cholesterol, which lie dead weight on the internal organs, on top of our beautiful muscles and in every possible way harm the blood system.

In order to be healthy, in fact, you need to be able to satisfy the needs of the body in such a way that it is good for the whole body as a whole, while remaining within normal healthy limits. It is important that all senses (including your brain) are happy with food, so that eating will bring positive emotions.

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90,000 Why do we need carbohydrates

But lately there are more and more doubts about the benefits of carbohydrates. People ask, “Why do we need them? Is it true that carbohydrates make you fat? Is it possible to completely exclude them from your diet? ” We tried to find answers to these questions and turned to the nutritionist Marina Apletaeva for help.

“It is very difficult to imagine our life without sugar and sugar-containing products,” says nutritionist Marina Apletaeva. – They have been present in the diet of people for centuries. Once in our body, sugar is converted into glucose. ” Glucose performs an important function for humans as the main source of energy, providing the work of all cells of the body, and first of all, muscles, brain, heart. These organs are especially sensitive to the lack of this substance, since it is necessary for their work.

Therefore, people involved in mental work, sports, and simply leading an active lifestyle, sometimes feel the need for something sweet. It can be a piece of chocolate, a glass of sweet tea or a can of cola – sugar-containing foods and drinks will quickly and easily help you to concentrate on your work or on a specific difficult task and give your body some strength. ”

“Another question is the amount of sugar that enters our body not only in pure form, but also together with sugar-containing products,” continues Marina Apletaeva.- The recommended daily consumption of sugar in Russia should not exceed 65 grams. Many people say that carbohydrates quickly gain weight. But the point is not in the carbohydrates themselves, but in their quantity. If a person consumes a large amount of carbohydrates (and this, in addition to sugar, also starch, buns, dryers, cookies, all kinds of baked goods), then, of course, the weight may increase. Therefore, it is very important to observe moderation in everything.

To enjoy a wide variety of foods and not be afraid for your figure, you need to monitor the balance of calories.Unspent energy can turn into extra pounds. If you spend no less energy than you consume, then there is nothing to be afraid of. For example, in a situation where you have a difficult energy-consuming work, you can cheer yourself up and boldly allow a piece of cake or a glass of soda. ”

The material was prepared in cooperation with kp.ru and TCCS.

Why do athletes need carbohydrates?

Author : Rick Katuf (Rick Kattouf)

In the modern world of sports and nutrition, the word “carbohydrates” has become almost a curse word.Newfangled low-carb diets are being promoted all over the place. Most of these diets and nutritional guidelines are high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. The idea of ​​burning fat rather than carbohydrates is becoming popular among endurance athletes.

No power or minimum power strategies

Many low-carb and high-protein athletes often follow the no-food / minimum-food strategies during exercise.Typically, they think, “Why should I be loaded with calories while doing sports? The less I eat during exercise, the more fat I burn. ” This logic is especially common when an athlete wants to see rapid weight loss. Indeed, by lowering your carbohydrate intake, you will probably lose weight quickly, but the effect will be temporary, and most likely the weight will return quickly. In such a situation, the athlete should ask himself / herself if he / she only needs to create an impression, or does he / she want real long-term results? The difference between these two goals is huge.

Diets can lead to rapid weight loss, and then even more rapid weight gain back. It turns out that this is a temporary change, a deviation from the usual norm for the body. While adapting to a new diet that becomes a habit is what will lead to long-term results.

The Fat Burning Myth

Many athletes avoid carbohydrates in an effort to train their bodies to burn fat as their main source of energy. The logic behind this is that it is impossible to consume carbohydrates and burn fat at the same time.But the truth is, it’s just possible. There is even such a statement: “fat burns in the flame of carbohydrates.” Carbohydrates not only provide energy for working muscles, they also promote fat metabolism. Thus, carbohydrates are needed by the body in order for it to use fat for fuel.

Avoid diet dependence

Around the polyphony sounds from a variety of diets and weight loss methods, which are very easy to succumb to. For example, there is a low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet called Diet X.People who are just starting out on Diet X will feel super-motivated. Then, after a short time (usually within a week or several days), many of them to the question “how are you doing with the diet?” will answer something like “I am currently following Diet-X at 70%.” What happened to the complete Diet-X? What happened is that the organisms of these people began to pray for carbohydrates, and fortunately, people heard the voice of their body. They did not ignore the needs of their body and responded to the body’s needs for carbohydrates … And if carbohydrates are still not enough for normal performance and well-being, the diet gradually begins to be fulfilled not by 70%, but by 60%, and so on.

Carbohydrates are needed for the brain

Carbohydrates are needed not only for physical performance. Glucose from carbohydrates is also the fuel for the brain, which it uses to energize and motivate you. According to Dr. Carol Greenwood, “A diet low in carbohydrates not only deprives the brain of its main source of energy, but also creates a glucose deficiency that inhibits the synthesis of acetylcholine, one of the key neurotransmitters.” She investigated the memory characteristics of older people: she asked them to eat mashed potatoes or porridge for breakfast and found that “eating carbohydrates markedly improves the memory of healthy older people about an hour after a meal.”

Vegetables are not carbohydrates

In the world of high-protein diets, there are many misconceptions about the role of vegetables. Too often dieters say “I eat vegetables for my carbs.” But if you take a closer look, it turns out that vegetables alone cannot meet your carbohydrate needs. For example, 1 cup of broccoli contains only 5.8 grams of carbohydrates. Thus, it is important to understand that vegetables are not carbohydrates. Of course, they can add a few grams of carbs to your meal, but they are not a complete source of carbs.Similarly, a slice of whole grain bread contains a few grams of protein, but cannot meet your protein needs.

Performance of athletes and carbohydrates

When it comes to athletes, their physical performance and nutrition during training, carbohydrates are vital for them on a daily basis. To maintain maximum performance and good recovery, athletes must continually replenish and replenish muscle glycogen stores. This is not possible on a low-carb / high-protein diet.

Muscle glycogen (and secondarily fat) is the main source of energy for the body during physical activity. Low muscle glycogen stores make you feel tired and unable to perform high-intensity exercise. Depletion of glycogen stores is one of the important causes of muscle weakness. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise consume glycogen, so the body’s need for carbohydrates is high during any physical activity. There is ample evidence that consuming carbohydrates during exercise of 45 minutes or longer can markedly improve endurance and performance.

To summarize, I would like to reiterate that athletes aiming for optimal and best performance in physical and mental performance, recovery, body composition and long-term results should avoid the diet craze. In matters of nutrition, they should adhere to three principles on a daily basis:

  1. Sufficient frequency of meals.
  2. Correct feeding time. Develop and adhere to simple rules: eat almost immediately after waking up in the morning and then eat every 2.5-3.5 hours during the day. This food and nutrient intake will help maintain stable blood sugar, insulin, and serotonin levels. This will help you to have a consistent high energy level throughout the day, and you will not be tormented by bouts of hunger.
  3. Correct macronutrient balance. Focus on the correct carbohydrate / protein / fat ratio with every meal or snack. Optimally, 45-65% of calories come from carbohydrates, 15-30% from proteins and 15-30% from fats.This will help build and maintain high glycogen stores in your muscles.

Proper nutrition is essential for endurance athletes. Do not be afraid of carbohydrates, and avoid thinking in the spirit of the “70 or 60% Diet-X”. Instead, stick to good nutritional guidelines at all times to help you achieve better results.

Original article

Translation – Olga Polyakova

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90,000 What are carbohydrates and what are they for?

Photo: UGC

When asked what carbohydrates are, nutritionists will give an unequivocal answer – these are the substances that fill our body with energy.But the recommendations for carbohydrate intake, quantity, timing of intake, and the benefits they bring to the body will vary greatly. Let’s figure it out in more detail.

What are carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are organic substances made up of carbon and water. The name was suggested by chemist Karl Schmidt in 1844.

Almost all products contain them. Without them, our body will weaken, and the brain will stop working. These are the only nutrients that do not leave toxins in the body and are completely broken down.

The energy storage provided by carbohydrates to the body is called glycogen. It is stored in the liver, muscles, and dissolved in the blood.

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For a healthy person, both an excess of carbohydrates, which leads to obesity, and a deficiency, as a result of which the normal metabolism is disrupted, are dangerous.

There is a direct relationship between physical activity and the amount of carbohydrates.

If you lead an inactive lifestyle, it is enough for you to consume 4 g of carbohydrates per 1 kg of body weight per day.

With increasing loads, the required rate of carbohydrates also increases. For example, in professional athletes, it reaches 6–8 g per kilogram of body weight.

Photo: womanshape.ru: UGC

Scientists distinguish between complex carbohydrates and simple ones. The latter are also known as fast carbohydrates, are easily absorbed by the body and increase sugar levels. You will need them if you have hard physical work, long jogging or good sex.

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Foods that weaken the intestines of an adult

These carbohydrates provide energy quickly, but for a short time.They can cause a deterioration in metabolism and the appearance of excess weight. Simple carbohydrates are found in “white foods” such as sugar, flour, potatoes, rice, semolina, condensed milk.

Complex (also called slow) carbohydrates are processed in the body for a long time, gradually feed it with energy, creating a feeling of fullness for a long time.

Slow carbohydrates are also needed to maintain muscle tone, heart function, and mental activity.They contain “colored” products: buckwheat, pearl barley, oats, millet and sesame.

Thus, fast carbohydrates are necessary during physical activity (sports, work), and slow ones, when mental activity is ahead (training, scientific research).

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Slow carbohydrates: a list of foods for weight loss

Read also: How to stop eating sweets and lose weight

Carbohydrates: what is needed for

In the human body, the functions of carbohydrates are varied.Chief among them are:

  • Energy.

The body receives energy by processing carbohydrates. It ensures the work of almost all organs, especially the brain.

Without carbohydrates, normal mental activity is impossible.

  • Construction.

Carbohydrates are involved in the formation of proteins, which are needed for bone and cartilage tissue.

Together with proteins, carbohydrates participate in the formation of enzymes and hormones, as well as DNA and RNA.

Thanks to carbohydrates, our glands secrete mucus, which protects the intestinal walls and nasal openings from germs. Normal functioning of the immune system is impossible without carbohydrates.

They also contribute to the production of heparin, which prevents blood clotting.

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Dried apricots: benefits and harms to the body

Photo: life-reactor.com: UGC

  • Regulatory.

Carbohydrates help the beneficial bacteria multiply in the stomach, thereby ensuring proper digestion and getting rid of harmful substances.

They are also involved in the regulation of the metabolic process, fats and proteins in the body.

  • Specific.

Some carbohydrates are involved in the production of nerve impulses.

Carbohydrates are an important element that the body needs.

Slow and fast carbohydrates are needed to ensure normal mental and physical activity of the body.

It is only necessary to understand in what cases and what carbohydrates to consume.

See also: What foods contain fiber?

Original article: https://www.