This question is typical of not just the average dieter; researchers are also looking at it more closely to see how low carb diets affect health conditions, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. A 2013 review article that looked at numerous studies comparing various diets (including low carb, low glycemic index, Mediterranean, and high protein) found health and weight loss benefits at a range of carbohydrate levels. The data indicate that the diet that achieved the best weight loss while also improving blood glucose levels, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol was the Mediterranean diet. This diet approach is typically moderate intake (about 50%) of carbohydrates with a foundation in plant-based, high-fiber foods (that is, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes), moderate to high intake (about 30%) of healthy fats (such as olive oil and nuts), and a moderate intake (about 20%) of protein with chicken, fish, and dairy (such as yogurt and cheese) favored as the primary sources, and red meat is limited to a few times per month. Although the results showed some promising evidence, the authors recommended additional research involving larger trials in order to standardize the variables so that the diet styles could be more easily compared.
When it comes to carbohydrate intake, I find that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It's about finding what works the best for an individual and his/her specific health needs. This post will describe what carbohydrates are, why we need them, and what are the best choices no matter what kind of diet you're on.
What are Carbohydrates? Carbohydrates can be described as simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars while complex carbohydrates are starches and dietary fiber. Sugars can be found naturally in foods (such as plain milk and yogurt, and fruit) or they can be added to foods (such as flavored milk, soft drinks, cookies, snack bars, and cakes). Starches are long chains of sugars and can be found in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, certain vegetables (such as corn, peas, and potatoes, beans, and peas) and lentils. Dietary fiber is typically found in highest amounts in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Why People Need Carbohydrates. Ultimately, all the carbohydrates (except for dietary fiber) that a person eats will get broken down into smaller components (that is, sugars) in order for our bodies to use it. It is the sugar (more specifically, glucose) that provides energy and it's our brain's preferred source. You may use it immediately or store it in your muscles or liver for later. Dietary fiber serves other purposes in our bodies. Some help us in digestion, absorption, and elimination of foods while others bind nutrients such as minerals, fats, and cholesterol and help us get rid of excess. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) recommends that all adults and children consume a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrate daily to support proper brain functioning. Different recommendations are given for infants and women during pregnancy and lactation. As a group, the report recommends that adults get between 45 and 65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates.
Best Choices. This is the real question: what carbohydrates should a person eat? From my experience, this is what makes all the difference. Although I do find that some people are able to eat more carbohydrates than another for various reasons and achieve the desired results, no matter if a person is eating 60 grams of carbs or 260 grams of carbs daily, quality matters. Ultimately, you need to be able to find an approach that you can live with. When I'm planning meals, this is what I look for:
Written by Michelle Baglio of Optimal Nutrition and Health (Google+). The information contained in this post is provided for educational purposes only with the understanding that Optimal Nutrition and Health makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information. Readers are advised not to use information in this post or others found on this website for the treatment or prevention of disease, and it should not be used in place of medical treatment or advice. Please do not reprint this post for distribution without my permission. To feature on your website or social media, please link to this post as the original source.