Five Tips to Help You Choose Carbohydrates Wisely

13 April, 2020
Carbohydrates aren’t bad, but some may be healthier than others. Discover why carbohydrates are important for your health and which ones you should choose here!

Carbohydrates often have a bad reputation, especially regarding weight gain. However, not all carbohydrates are bad. Due to their many benefits, carbohydrates have earned a place in a healthy diet. In fact, your body needs them to function properly. However, you should consume some carbohydrates over others. In this article, you’ll learn more about them and how to choose carbohydrates wisely.

Before understanding what “good” carbohydrates are and why you must include them in your daily diet, you need to understand exactly what a carbohydrate is and how it behaves in your body.

Information about carbohydrates

Sources of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates should represent a high percentage of your diet, albeit choosing the healthiest ones.

Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient found in many foods and beverages. Most of them are found in foods of plant origin, such as cereals. Food manufacturers also add carbohydrates in the form of starch or added sugar to processed foods.

Some of the most common sources of natural carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Cereals
  • Seeds
  • Legumes

Types of carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates in the diet:

  • Sugar. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate. You can find it naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk, and dairy products. Among them, we include fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (common sugar), and lactose (in milk).
  • Starch. It’s a complex carbohydrate, which means it consists of many sugar molecules strung together. You can find starch naturally in products of plant origin. In this regard, its concentration will be higher the less processed or cooked the food is.
  • Fiber. Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. You can find it naturally in fruit and vegetables, such as whole grains and seeds.

How many carbohydrates do you need?

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, carbohydrates should meet most of the energy needs and represent between 55% and 75% of the daily intake. However, simple sugars should represent less than 10%.

Therefore, if you consume 2000 calories per day, 900 to 1,300 of them should be carbohydrates. This translates into 8 to 11 oz per day.

You should also read: Non Fattening Carbohydrates You Should Eat

Five tips to help you choose carbohydrates wisely

Carbohydrate intake is essential because it represents a very healthy energy source. However, not all carbohydrates are made in the same way.

Below, you’ll discover how to properly incorporate healthy carbohydrates into a balanced diet:

1. Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in fiber

Different fruits.
Fruits and vegetables contain healthy sugars.

Thus, you should look for fresh, frozen, or canned whole fruits and vegetables, without added sugar. Other options include fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar. Therefore, they have more calories.

Fruits and vegetables also provide fiber and water, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. All this will help you feel more satisfied with fewer calories.

2. Choose whole grains

Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as B vitamins, than refined grains. Refined grains undergo a process that eliminates certain parts of the grains, as well as part of the nutrients and fiber.

You should also read: Good Versus Bad Carbohydrates: Busting Myths

3. Consume low-fat dairy products

Different dairy products.
Dairy products are rich in healthy sugars, such as lactose, as well as calcium and vitamins.

Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein. In addition, they contain many other vitamins and minerals. You should consider consuming low-fat dairy products to limit your intake of calories and saturated fat. And be careful with dairy products that contain added sugar.

4. Consume more legumes

Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils, are some of the most versatile and nutritious foods that exist. They’re usually low in fat and high in folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium, in addition to beneficial fats and fibers.

Legumes are a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which contains more saturated fat and cholesterol.

5. Limit your consumption of added sugar

A glass of a soft drink with ice.
Soft drinks contain a lot of added sugar.

Added sugar is probably not harmful in small amounts. However, consuming added sugar regularly has no health benefit. Healthy eating guidelines recommend limiting your added sugar intake to less than 10% of the calories you consume every day.

Sweets, processed foods, and soft drinks are some of the foods that contain the most added sugar. Therefore, it’s necessary for you to reduce your added sugar intake.

Finally, you must choose carbohydrates wisely. Limit your consumption of foods with added sugar and refined grains, such as sugary drinks, desserts, and sweets, which contain a lot of empty calories and aren’t nutritious. Instead, you should eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • OMS. La OMS y la FAO publican un informe de expertos independientes sobre dieta, nutrición y prevención de enfermedades crónicas. (2003) https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr20/es/
  • Mayo Clinic. Carbohidratos: cómo pueden formar parte de una alimentación saludable. mayoclinic.org/es-es/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705
  • Gómez Candela C, Palma Milla S. Una visión global, actualizada y crítica, del papel del azúcar en nuestra alimentación. Nutr Hosp 2013; 28 (4):1-4.
  • Food and Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO). Carbohydrates in human nutrition. Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation. FAO Food Nutr Pap 1998; 66:1-140.