Diet Nutrition Information
Recommended Daily Allowance for Carbohydrate (RDA) - Daily Intake of Dietary Carbohydrates
How Much Carbohydrate to Eat in Diet for Optimum Nutritional Health and Weight Loss

Carbs: Daily Needs

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Information About Dietary Carbohydrate

What are Carbs?

Carbohydrates (the name derives from carbon plus water) are one of three types of nutrients - the other two being protein and fat. Nearly all foods (except for oils/fats) contain a mixture of carbs, protein and fat, but what makes carbs different is that they are easily converted to energy by the body, so they supply most of our energy needs. This doesn't mean that carbs are more nutritious than fats or protein. Both fat and protein are absolutely vital for good health, and without a balanced diet of carbs, fat and protein, the human body quickly becomes malnourished.

Recommended Daily Allowance for Carbs

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published 2002, we should eat enough carbohydrates (mainly the complex low glycemic-index type of carbs) to account for 45-65 percent of our daily calories.

What are the Types of Carbohydrate?

Simple and Sugary Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are sugars, like glucose, fructose and lactose. Common sources include table sugar (sucrose), boiled sweets, syrups and honey.

Complex and Starchy Carbohydrates
Complex carbs are either starches, or indigestible dietary fiber. Common sources of starches include, bread, pasta, rice, beans and some vegetables. Common sources of dietary fiber are fruits, vegetables, beans, and the indigestible parts of wholegrains like wheat bran and oatbran.

Carbohydrate Foods Classified by the Glycemic Index

Recently, the Glycemic Index (GI) has become the standard for classifying carbohydrates. The glycemic index is a measure of how fast a particular carb-containing food causes blood sugar to rise, compared with glucose. The higher a food is listed on the glycemic index, the faster it causes blood-glucose levels to rise. Foods are divided into high, medium or low glycemic index foods. In very simple terms, high-fiber foods tend to be lowest on the GI scale, while other complex carb foods tend to be medium GI, while simple carbs tend to have the highest GI value. However, some starchy foods (even though they are classified as complex carbs) can have a high glycemic value.

Carbohydrates Classified by Their Glycemic Load

As stated above, the glycemic index compares and classifies foods according the impact they have on blood-glucose. However, it doesn't measure normal portion-sizes: instead, it measures 50 grams of carbs in each food. So if a particular food contains only 10 percent carbs, the glycemic index measures 500 grams of that food, which can be quite an unrealistic measure. In comparison, a food's glycemic load value is based on normal portion-sizes. For more information, see Glycemic Load

Effects of Carbohydrates on Blood Sugar

Due to their differing chemical structures, simple carbs and complex carbs affect the body in different ways.

Simple and Sugary Carbohydrates
Simple carbs are basically sugars (glucose) so they are very quickly assimilated into the bloodstream, causing a rise in blood-glucose levels. Because blood sugar-levels must be maintained within a certain healthy range, the body responds by telling the pancreas to secrete insulin into the digestive system, as insulin helps to "soak up" excess blood sugar and disperse it to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, the pancreatic gland typically "overreacts" to any sudden rise in blood sugar and secretes too much insulin. As a result, within an hour or so, the insulin has removed too much blood sugar, causing levels to drop which in turn triggers hunger. This rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels caused by excess production of insulin, is not good for our health or our eating habits.

Complex Carbohydrates
By comparison, complex carbs generally (but not always) need more time to be broken down into glucose. So they don't raise blood sugar levels as fast as simple carbs. This is why dietitians and nutritional experts advise that we limit our intake of simple carbohydrates and eat complex carbohydrates instead. That said, when choosing carbohydrate-rich foods, be guided by the Glycemic Index. Not all complex carbs are equally beneficial for good glycemic control.

Fiber
Dietary fiber is such a complex type of carbohydrate that the human body cannot metabolize it (break it down into glucose or other nutrients) at all. So it passes through the body mostly undigested. However, fiber is very important for both health and weight control because it helps the body to process waste efficiently and helps us to feel fuller for longer. Fiber also helps protect us against some serious diseases, including various cancers.

Nutrition Resources About Carbohydrate

Carbs: RDA and Information
Best Carbs in Diet
Carbohydrates, Diet and Health
Vitamins in Carbs
Minerals/Trace Elements in Carbs
Phytochemicals in Carbs
No Carb Diet
Ketosis
Ketogenic Diet
Carbs, Fat and Diet
Carbs for Breakfast
Carbs, Diet Nutrition and Calories
Low Carb Diets, Calories and Weight Loss
Calories, Carbs and Diet
Low Carb Foods - Read Labels
Carb Intake in Diet
Dietary Fat, Cholesterol and Strokes
Atkins Diet - Health Questions
Atkins Diet and Health
Atkins Diet and Weight Loss
Atkins Diet - Kidneys and Osteoporosis
Low Carb Diets - Health Concerns
High Carb Diets and Liver Problems
What is the Glycemic Index
How is Glycemic Index Measured
GI of Bread, Potatoes, Rice and Pasta
What Affects Glycemic Index Values of Carbs
Carbs and the Glycemic Index
Glycemic Index and Weight Loss
Low Glycemic Index Diets and Weight Loss
Low Carb Diets and Nutrition
High Protein Diets to Maintain Weight
Diet Fat and Heart Disease
Carbs, Diet and Cancer

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