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Importance of carbohydrates: Blog | Carbohydrates 101: The benefits of carbohydrates

Blog | 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.

What are Carbohydrates and Why We Need Them in Our Diet

Feb 25, 2020 | Healthy Eating, Nutritional Therapy

Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for your body. They are one of the three main macronutrients, with the other two being protein and lipids (fat).

Several fad diets out on the market have encouraged us to think of carbohydrates as a “bad” food. Nutritional Therapists agree that refined sweets and starches shouldn’t be included in a healthy diet. There are carbs from natural sources, however, that can be good for you.

Carbohydrates have many nutritional and mental health benefits and should not be restricted from your diet for several reasons. Although it may take some time to adjust to this concept as you have been conditioned to avoid these foods, do not be afraid to incorporate carbohydrates into your diet.

Here are a few reasons that carbohydrates are important for our mind and bodies:

  • Glucose (breakdown of most carbohydrates) is what our brain utilizes for energy
  • Fiber (source of carbohydrate) plays an important role in digestive health
  • Your brain and gut communicate – the brain is part of the control system for the gut1
  • Complex carbohydrates can increase healthy gut bacteria2
  • Gut bacteria is associated with mood and mental disorders3
  • Carbohydrates are essential for the production of serotonin – serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood
  • Inadequate carbohydrate intake can increase cortisol levels, the stress hormone4
  • Carbohydrates regulate blood sugar – without carbohydrates, your blood sugar can drop too low and cause lethargy and irritation

It is important to find the appropriate balance with carbohydrate intake – eating too few or too many carbohydrates can alter the production of T3, the thyroid hormone. 5 More healthy (complex carbohydrates) should be a part of your diet and unhealthy (refined carbohydrates or simple sugars) should be limited but NOT avoided. Restricting yourself from indulging in some of your favorite treats (i.e., cake, cookies, apple cider donuts) can result in binge eating.

Here are a few healthy carbohydrate (complex carbohydrate) sources:

  • Fruit
  • Whole grain bread
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain or bean based (i.e., chickpea) pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, butternut squash, beets
  • Beans (i.e., kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans)

Making sure you find healthy carbohydrate sources is key to maintaining behavior that will encourage healthy eating. Many people believe a no carb diet is a requirement for getting in shape but it can often lead to more severe health problems. Schedule a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist at Behavioral Nutrition for help finding a healthy diet for your specific situation.


  1. Keefer L, Palsson OS, Pandolfino JE. Best practice update: Incorporating psychogastroenterology into management of digestive disorders. Gastroenterology. 2018;154(5):1249-1257. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.01.045.
  2. Vinke PC, El Aidy S, van Dijk G. The role of supplemental complex dietary carbohydrates and gut microbiota in promoting cardiometabolic and immunological health in obesity: Lessons from healthy non-obese individuals. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2017;4:34. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00034.
  3. Kennedy PJ, Murphy AB, Cryan JF, Ross PR, Dinan TG, Stanton C. Microbiome in brain function and mental health. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2016;57:289-301. doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2016.05.001.
  4. Soltani H, Keim NL, Laugero KD. Increasing dietary carbohydrate as part of a healthy whole food diet intervention dampens eight week changes in salivary cortisol and cortisol responsiveness. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2563. doi: 10.3390/nu11112563.
  5. Pasquali R, Parenti M, Mattioli L, et al. Effect of dietary carbohydrates during hypocaloric treatment of obesity on peripheral thyroid hormone metabolism. Journal of endocrinological investigation. 1982;5(1):47-52. doi: 10.1007/BF03350482.

what lies behind the overconsumption of carbohydrates?

Few people do not like sweet food and various flour products. And although it has long been no secret that foods high in “simple carbohydrates” lead to the accumulation of excess fat, how can you refuse grandmother’s pies and rolls? How harmful or useful it is, what is the effect of carbohydrates on the human body – we will try to figure it out in this article.

Fast carbohydrates

Fast carbohydrates include monosaccharides, or “simple carbohydrates,” and disaccharides, which contain two monosaccharides. These are carbohydrates such as:

– glucose;

– fructose;

– sucrose;

– maltose and others.

The most common type of fast carbohydrate in food is glucose. How fast carbohydrates affect the body? Glucose, like other monosaccharides, is quickly absorbed by the body and provides a lot of energy. But this energy is consumed just as quickly, and excess insulin, which ensures the absorption of glucose, causes a feeling of hunger.

Slow carbohydrates

Slow carbohydrates, unlike fast carbohydrates, are more complex compounds called polysaccharides. Slow carbohydrates include:

– starch;

– glycogen;

– cellulose;

As their name implies, slow carbohydrates are absorbed by the body for a long time and saturate the human body with energy for a longer time than faster carbohydrates.

Effect of carbohydrates on human health

How do carbohydrates affect the body? Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for physical and mental activity. In addition, all types of carbohydrates are necessary for uninterrupted cell division, muscle strengthening and normalization of growth dynamics. It is worth noting that when the body is saturated with carbohydrates, overeating and lethargy after eating rarely occur. This is due to the fact that carbohydrates are quickly absorbed by the body, give a charge of vivacity and do not require much time for this.

The lack of carbohydrates in the diet leads to the fact that for energy the body breaks down proteins that are more useful for the recovery of the body. The calorie content of proteins and carbohydrates is relatively the same.

The benefits of carbohydrates

Foods that are high in carbohydrates tend to taste good. For athletes, the effect of carbohydrates on the body is indispensable due to its energy intensity and rapid absorption.

Slow carbohydrates are more beneficial to the human body than faster ones. They provide the body with energy for a long time, are almost not stored as fat, and, which is especially important in diabetes, maintain blood sugar levels.

Providing the body with energy is the main effect of carbohydrates – only for the normal functioning of the brain, the amount of sugar required is 160 grams per day. Of course, we are not talking about the need to consume food sugar with spoons, but about all the sugars that are contained in food.

The harm of carbohydrates

The peculiarity of the assimilation of glucose and other monosaccharides by the body is such that for this the human gastric gland produces insulin. Insulin converts monosaccharides into the polysaccharide glycogen, which is stored in the liver. At the rate of consumption of monosaccharides, this does not cause any harm, but with an excess of them in the blood, insulin processes monosaccharides into fatty acids and they are deposited as fat. Usually, during the diet, fast carbohydrates are completely excluded from eating.


These are the simplest compounds that make up more complex carbohydrates. They are usually clear, readily soluble solids in water. Most fast carbohydrates are monosaccharides – due to the fact that these are simple carbohydrate compounds, their absorption by the body occurs quickly.

All monosaccharides are divided into two main groups:

1) Monosaccharides of open form (oxoform)

2) Cyclic monosaccharides – can be twisted and closed into rings, which makes them more stable and more common.


Polysaccharides are complex compounds of carbohydrates. They are made up of thousands of monosaccharide compounds. According to their useful properties, polysaccharides are divided into three groups:

1) Structural polysaccharides – are responsible for the mechanical strength of cells, tissues and organs.

2) Water-soluble polysaccharides – keep cells and tissues from drying out.

3) Reserve polysaccharides – accumulate in cells and, if necessary, supply them with monosaccharides.

Many complex carbohydrates are absorbed by the human body with great difficulty and are called “dietary fibers”. The mechanism of the impact of dietary fiber on the human body has not yet been fully studied, but today it is clear that they regulate the functioning of the intestines and affect the absorption of other chemical compounds. In addition, dietary fiber reduces the risk of diabetes.

Products containing mono- and polysaccharides

The use of foods high in carbohydrates normalizes the effect of fats and proteins on the human body. While carbohydrates are the main source of energy, when they are deficient, the body breaks down fats and proteins for energy.

Foods with the highest content of monosaccharides: carrots, watermelon, fresh apples, prunes, raisins, dried apricots, dates, rose hips, grapes and honey.

Foods containing polysaccharides: pumpkin, beets, potatoes, boiled corn, durum wheat pasta, peas, whole grain bread, oatmeal, buckwheat and rice. These products are digested for a long time, but do not contain fat and are well suited for dietary nutrition.

Building materials for the body: what role do proteins, fats and carbohydrates play?

A child is known to be a growing organism. He needs energy to fully develop, “build”. Where does this energy come from? Its source is proteins, fats and carbohydrates that we get from food .


Proteins are responsible for building new muscles and tissues, including bones, help the body defend itself against infections, and participate in metabolism. Food rich in protein: milk, dairy and dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, nuts.

Lack of protein causes stunted growth and development, weight loss, weakened immunity, malfunctions of internal organs. An excess of protein is also harmful to the body – an excess of protein foods in the diet can lead, in particular, to a deterioration in bowel function.


Fats are a source of energy for the child, keep warm, regulate body temperature. They are a source of many vitamins that also enter the human body with food. For example, vegetable fats contain vitamin E, and animal fats contain vitamins A and D. Fats are found in almost all animal products (pork, beef, mutton fat) and in some vegetable products (vegetable oils, nuts).

Lack of fat in the child’s body leads to skin diseases, lack of body weight and height. Excess fat leads to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


Carbohydrates give the human body more energy than proteins and fats. Like proteins and fats, they are involved in the construction of cells in the human body and strengthen the immune system.

Carbohydrates are usually divided into simple and complex, sometimes they are also called fast and slow. Simple carbohydrates are easily absorbed by the body, provide “fast” energy. Complex ones supply long-acting, “slow” energy. Saturation from foods containing slow carbohydrates lasts longer, so it is recommended to eat them. Fast (simple) carbohydrates are found in sugar, sweets, confectionery, slow carbohydrates are found in cereals, bread, vegetables and fruits.

Loss of energy, bad mood, lethargy and apathy are associated with a lack of carbohydrates. Their excess leads to a decrease in muscle tone, looseness of tissues, and an increase in body weight. Diseases with an excess of carbohydrates in the body are more severe and are accompanied by complications.

Who is in charge?

Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are the “foundation”, “walls” and “roof”. So that the “building” does not warp, you need to maintain their balance, especially in childhood. A person who does not receive enough food, and therefore nutrients, is starving – his body spends everything it can to produce energy. Including the nutrients of their own tissues – and because of this, starving children do not grow well.

Sometimes from the triad “proteins, fats, carbohydrates” they try to isolate the main element, leaving primacy to proteins. But this is not true. It is important that nutrition is balanced and that the body receives all types of nutrients. For example, a predominantly carbohydrate diet with a deficiency in protein and fat consumption causes great harm to the body, causing a lag in growth and in general development.

Daily allowances

Rospotrebnadzor specialists have determined the rate of consumption of proteins, fats and carbohydrates for Russian citizens, in accordance with the physiological needs of the body at different ages.