Carbohydrates: How Do They Affect My Health and Weight Goals? Carbohydrates: How Do They Affect My Health and Weight Goals?
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In your quest to eat cleaner and maintain a healthy weight, you may be wondering where carbs fit into the equation. It may seem like carbohydrates are the enemy these days, since they get quite a lot of bad press! But the truth is that carbs are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet – and we absolutely need them for a number of vital processes in our bodies.

When it comes to weight loss, which we’ll also examine in this article, reducing the amount of carbs you eat each day has proven to be beneficial – but you still need some carbs from the right sources. We’ll dig into what that amount is and what a dietary plan may look like for you…

Let’s start with the basics: What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three essential macronutrients, with the other two being protein and fat. This means they’re one of the three major ways that your body gets energy, or calories.

All macronutrients are essential for your body to function the way it should, and you have to get them from your diet since your body doesn’t produce them on its own. (1)

Carbohydrates Function: How Do Carbs Benefit the Body?

Fuel/energy– Carbs are a main source of fuel for your brain, kidneys, heart muscles and central nervous system, also providing energy to your muscles.

Brain function/Mood– Your brain needs an adequate amount of carbs for proper cognitive function including learning and memory.

Digestion – Healthy carb sources provide fiber, which aids in proper digestion, helps you feel full and keeps your blood cholesterol levels in check. (2)

Different Types of Carbs: Simple vs. Complex

You may have heard of the two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Basically, when it comes to nutrition you want to stay away from simple and lean towards complex. Although it’s a bit more complicated than that…

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates include refined carbs such as cakes, candies, cookies and white bread.

This type of carb is digested and absorbed more quickly in your body after eating it. Think candy, cookies, soda and syrups. They’re made with processed and refined sugars and don’t have the nutrients (vitamins, minerals or fiber) that your body needs. Basically, they’re empty calories, void of true nutritional content.

There are two types of simple carbs: monosaccharides and disaccharides… (3)

Monosaccharides contain just one sugar and include fructose (found naturally in fruits and also extracted for use in processed food items), and galactose (found in dairy products).

Disaccharides contain two sugars and include sucrose (table sugar), lactose (in milk and dairy products), and maltose (found in some veggies and grains).

In general, simple carbs give you quick energy, but then drop you, leading to blood sugar spikes.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates include slow-digesting carbs like oats, brown rice and beans.

The more desired type of carb for a healthy lifestyle, complex carbs are digested and absorbed by the body more slowly, leading to balanced, sustained energy without dips and crashes.

Complex carbs are called polysaccharides, and they have three or more sugars. These carbs are the least processed or refined and some examples include whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, potatoes, parsnips and other starchy vegetables.

Whereas simple carbs are mostly void of nutrients, complex carbs are rich with nutrients and fiber – which helps you maintain proper digestion and bowel health. Fiber also is needed for natural toxin removal from the body, and can help with weight loss by preventing blood sugar spikes and keeping you full.

How Many Carbs Do I Need Each Day?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) here is the recommendation for the amount of carbs you should eat each day…

  • The recommended daily amount (RDA) of carbs for adults is 135 grams
  • However, everyone should have their own carb goal based on lifestyle, physical activity, health issues, and personal weight goals

When discussing carbs and weight loss, there are a new set of rules to follow, and we’ll discuss that next!

Carbs and Weight Loss

Though carbs are an essential macronutrient that powers up the body and brain each day, many current weight loss diets focus on reducing the amount of them that you eat. Why is that?

Studies show that simply reducing the amount of carbs you eat each day is one of the best ways to drop pounds – since low-carb diets reduce your normally ferocious appetite by keeping you satisfied with fat and protein. You therefore eat fewer calories which could lead to weight loss. (4)

How Many Carbs and What Types Should I Eat for Weight Loss?

If you want to take the easy route, go ahead and remove the unhealthy sources of carbs from your diet (the simple carbs we talked about above including refined wheat products and sugars).

If you want to reduce your carb intake even more to follow a low carb diet or keto diet, you can try these guidelines, below: (4)

Moderate Carb Reduction

100 – 150 grams of carbs per day

This is great for people who are already at their goal weight, are very active, and want to eat a healthy diet while maintaining their weight.

The best carbs to eat to reach this daily carb goal include:

  • A plethora of non-starchy veggies
  • Several pieces of fruit
  • Moderate amounts of complex, healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice and oats

More Intense Carb Reduction

50-100 grams of carbs per day

In this category of carbs, you should be able to lose weight while still enjoying come carbs in your diet. This category is also good for those who want to maintain their weight while being sensitive to carbs.

The best carbs to eat to reach this daily carb goal include:

  • A plethora of non-starchy veggies
  • 2-3 pieces of fruit per day
  • Small amount of starchy, complex carbs

Most Intense Carb Reduction (Suitable for Keto Diets)

20-50 grams of carbs per day

This is where you get into the really good zone for weight loss. This amount of carbs could be beneficial for those who would like to drop pounds quickly, or have obesity or diabetes – since this range is where the metabolic benefits really start to kick in.

At 50 grams or less of carbs per day, your body should switch into something called ketosis – where it starts to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. This also helps suppress your appetite and unleash more physical and mental energy.

The best carbs to eat to reach this daily carb goal include:

  • A good amount of low-carb, non-starchy veggies
  • Some low-carb fruits (such as berries)
  • Trace carbs from other healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds

To make it easier for yourself, if you wish to track your daily carb intake, you can do so on a calorie tracker app such as Fitbit (which now allows you to track your macronutrients along with your calories)! To learn more about calorie-tracking for overall health and weight loss, check out this post on calories and dietary goals.



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