Over the years, carbohydrates have become nutritional villains. It seems everywhere you look, people advise you to watch carbs, cut carbs, or go low-carb. But you need carbs — and more than you may think. Dietary carbs provide the body’s primary energy source, glucose, which fuels everything you do, from breathing to thinking to running. This means about half of everything you eat should be carbohydrates. So why are so many people convinced that it’s better to eat as few carbs as possible? The answer may lie in the sources of those carbs. Chan School of Public Health. Natural, unprocessed foods provide health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals along with carbs. On the other hand, highly processed foods made with refined flour — such as white bread, pasta, crackers, and muffins — typically fall short on these nutrients. While the recommended carb intake range is the same for all age groups, there are some circumstances that might influence whether you aim for the high or low end.
First, we feared eating too much fat. Then, the pendulum shifted, and we started to eye carbs as the enemy. But what’s the real deal? Now, a global study published in The Lancet is challenging the notion that one necessarily needs to be worse than the other: Rather, it might be that eating too much or too little of the nutrients is the actual problem. Researchers from McMaster University in Canada followed more than , people in 18 countries—from South America to Africa to China—for about seven years. After analyzing survey data about their diet and health, the researchers found that people who ate more than 68 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates were 28 percent more likely to die during the follow up than those who took in a lesser percentage of their calories from carbs. The nutritional breakdown of carbs is important, since previous studies suggest that foods with a high glycemic index—meaning they spike your blood sugar faster, like refined carbs tend to do—can increase your risk for several chronic diseases, like obesity and diabetes, says Dehghan.
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The low carbohydrate diet has been the topic of much controversy. One reason cutting carbs is so popular, however, is because it is a quick way of dropping the pounds. Healthful carbs, such as so-called complex carbs, are necessary for the body to work optimally. Carbohydrates are broken down into a simple form of energy called glucose. The body uses insulin to carry the glucose into the cells. When too many carbohydrates are consumed, the blood sugar level spikes, insulin rises, and the result of this is often weight gain. In this article, we take a look at how many carbs someone needs to eat to lose weight, and whether or not a low-carb diet is healthful? We also examine the best and worst sources of carbohydrates to eat.