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Although they get a bad reputation thanks to trendy diets, carbohydrates are not unhealthy. In fact, carbs are one of the basic food groups and are an important part to any well-balanced diet and a healthy life.

 

The Function of Carbohydrates

Carbs are our body’s primary source of energy. When we eat carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into a simple sugar known as glucose. From there, the mitochondria in our cells use this glucose to produce ATP, which our body needs for energy.

 

The Three Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can come in many forms. They are found in our grains, fruits, vegetables, and even dairy products. The three different types of carbohydrates are:

• Starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate found in foods such as potatoes, rice, and whole wheat bread and pasta.

• Fiber. Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate and can be found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

• Sugar. Sugar is the “bad” type of carb. It is a simple carbohydrate that is naturally in fruits and milk, but can also be found in soda, candy, and refined grains such as white bread.

 

How to Include Carbohydrates Into Your Diet

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, meaning they contain calories. One gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories. As a rule of thumb, carbohydrates should account for roughly 45-65% of your daily diet. This would be between 225-325 grams for someone who eats 2,000 calories per day. This number could be even higher for those who are physically active, as their bodies require more energy.

Here are the types of carb-heavy foods you should try to include in your diet:

• Whole grain bread and pasta
• Brown rice and quinoa
• Beans and chickpeas
• Potatoes and sweet potatoes
• Fruits and vegetables
• Steel cut oats (not instant oatmeal)

 
For more information about carbohydrates, see this article from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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