Are Carbohydrates Important in Your Diet?

Carbohydrates represent the main source of energy for the body. They're fundamental for the brain, the kidney, and red blood cells. In today's article, we'll delve deeper into the following question: Are carbohydrates important in your diet?
Are Carbohydrates Important in Your Diet?
Florencia Villafañe

Written and verified by the nutritionist Florencia Villafañe.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

With all the modern hype surrounding carbs, you may have wondered if carbohydrates are important in your diet. Carbohydrates are nutrients that carry out a number of significant functions in the body. What’s more, the body incorporates them by means of food. 

So, what role do they play and what’s their significance in your diet?

There’s indeed a lot of debate regarding their consumption. However, the truth is that scientific evidence supports the benefits that carbohydrates offer.

Keep reading and find out more!

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a broad group of organic molecules that represent a primary biological form for storing and consuming energy. They’re the most abundant organic compounds in nature and also the ones that humans consume the most.

Examples of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are one of the essential macronutrients for the body. They play an important role as an energy source.

Types of carbohydrates

In general, carbohydrates consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. However, they can also contain other bioactive elements like nitrogen. Some carbohydrates are smaller in size, known as simple carbohydrates. Such is the case of glucose and fructose, both of which are also present in honey.

However, in nature, complex carbohydrates are predominant. These form through the union of many carbohydrate molecules that group together in starches. In this way, they constitute a reserve for energy from foods.

What’s more, they also form cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin, which provide them with structure. These are what is known as “dietary fiber.”

Carbohydrates in foods: Where can we find them?

Often, when we talk about carbohydrates, most people associate them with foods made with refined flour. For example, they think of those that come from a bakery. However, many are unaware that this nutrient is present in many more everyday foods. Below, we’ll tell you where you can find them.

  • Honey, sugar, and fruits contain simple carbohydrates and pectin.
  • Whole grains and legumes offer dietary fiber.
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cassava contain starches.
  • Vegetables contain cellulose and hemicellulose.

What’s more, given their structure, carbohydrates determine the functionality and sensory characteristics of foods, providing organoleptic properties like flavor, color, viscosity, and texture.

Where do we find carbs?
Carbohydrates are present in many of the foods we eat on a regular basis. 

Also read: Discover if Bread Is Fattening

Are carbohydrates important in your diet?

While it’s very easy to incorporate them through a variety of foods, the importance that they have in the human diet is determined by the following:

  • They represent the main source of energy for the human body.
  • Carbohydrates are essential for the brain. In fact, this organ depends on this macronutrient and needs 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.
  • These nutrients are essential for red blood cells and the kidney.
  • Dietary fiber carries out important gastrointestinal functions. That’s because it improves intestinal transit, helps reduce cholesterol, and contributes to maintaining blood sugar levels.

How many carbohydrates should you include in your diet?

An optimal diet is one where 55 % of total energy comes from complex carbohydrates. What’s more, these should have a low glycemic index. For example, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, the daily ingestion of calories from carbohydrates should be between 45 and 60 %. At the same time, several studies have suggested that diets with carbohydrates from natural sources, compared to those that are rich in fat, reduces the tendency of developing obesity.

Also read: How to Distribute Carbohydrates Correctly

Why do people say that carbohydrates aren’t healthy?

This common misconception as to do with the tendency to associate carbohydrates only with those simple carbohydrates added to processed foods in large quantities. Because of this, many industrialized foods can raise your blood sugar or cause other health problems.

The following are some examples:

  • Soft drinks and sweetened juices.
  • Breakfast cereals, ice cream, chocolate, jams and jellies, and junk food in general.
  • Desserts and dairy products, like creams and sweetened yogurts.
  • Acidic and salty elaborated products, like condiments.
How to avoid simple carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates, like those present in industrialized foods, are linked to both mid and longterm health problems.

Read more: 12 Worst Toxins in Processed Foods

What you need to know about carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body and carry out important functions. However, it’s important to choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates. Remember, simple carbohydrates can lead to a variety of health problems. However, complex carbohydrates are very healthy!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.