Carbohydrates are one of the three main types of nutrients we need to stay healthy. They’re like your body’s primary fuel source. In fact, your body needs carbs to perform well.
On This Page
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are found in many foods and come in different forms. They’re made up of smaller units called sugars, which can be simple or complex depending on their structure.
Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates
- Simple Carbohydrates: These are like quick energy sources. They are found in fruits, milk, and sweet treats. Your body breaks these down fast, giving you a quick energy boost.
- Complex Carbohydrates: These are more like long-lasting fuel. They take longer for your body to break down. You can find them in foods like whole grains, beans, and vegetables.
Why Are Carbohydrates Important?
Carbohydrates are crucial because they provide your body with glucose, which is converted into energy. This energy is used for everything from breathing to running.
Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. This glucose is then used as energy for your cells, tissues, and organs.
Your brain especially needs carbohydrates. It relies on glucose as its main energy source. So, when you have a test or need to concentrate, carbs can be your brain’s best friend.
Fiber and Digestion
Complex carbohydrates often contain fiber. Fiber is important for digestion. It helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly and can prevent constipation. It also makes you feel full, which can be helpful if you’re watching your weight.
How Much Do You Need?
The amount of carbohydrates you need depends on your age, gender, and how active you are. Generally, about 45% to 65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
It’s not just about how many carbs you eat but also the type. Opt for complex carbohydrates more often. They provide longer-lasting energy and more nutrients compared to simple carbohydrates.
Sources of Carbohydrates
Here are some familiar sources of carbohydrates:
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, and oranges.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
- Grains: Bread, pasta, rice, and cereal.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, and peas.
- Dairy: Milk and yogurt.
Carbohydrates are essential for your health. They fuel your body and brain, help with digestion, and should be a mandatory part of your diet. Remember to choose more complex carbs for sustained energy and overall health benefits.