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How to Balance Carbs in Your Diet

How to Balance Carbs in Your Diet

Why These Macronutrients Are Important and How to Choose the Best Carbs for Your Body

By R. Joey

Many of today’s fad diets are focused on decreasing carbohydrate intake, such as with the popular keto diet. There’s this prevalent fear that carbs lead to unwanted weight gain. But as you’ll find out in this article, carbohydrates are not something to be feared and are, in fact, a key component of a healthy and active life.

What Carbohydrates Are and Why They’re Important

Carbohydrates are the naturally occurring sugars and starches in food. Chemically speaking, carbs are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen — a compound mainly found in living things. Simply put: carbohydrates are our primary source of energy, a literal life-giver, which is why it makes no sense to cut them out of your diet!

Nutrition experts share this sentiment that carbs are important to the human diet and should not be completely taken out. Instead, they should be balanced with other essential nutrients. Carbohydrates fuel daily activities and give you the energy to perform at your best physically. Endurance athletes, for example, need to eat more carbs for optimal performance. Additionally, carbohydrates are brain food which affects your mood and behavior. If you feel cranky or sad, it might be because the glucose in your brain is depleted.

Which Carbohydrate Sources to Eat

What can help you distinguish what to eat and when to eat is to understand the difference between the two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates are sugars that can be rapidly digested and converted to energy. The best sources are fruits and vegetables but these are also present in processed foods like chips. It’s best to stick to carbs in whole foods because processed foods also contain unhealthy ingredients, such as preservatives and sodium, while fruits and veggies have added nutrients and vitamins. These are best eaten when you’re feeling low on energy and need a quick boost, or right before a workout.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are slowly digested and help you feel full for longer. If you’re going for a hike over the weekend, for example, it’s best to fuel up with complex carbs beforehand. Foods like whole grains, beans, and legumes are great sources of complex carbs that can also regulate blood sugar. The great thing about these food groups is that they also contain fiber, which is important in digestive function.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to balancing carbs in your diet is to consider other macronutrients too. Generally, you should be allocating 45-65% of your daily calories to carbs, 10-35% to protein, and 20-35% to fat. How much you actually need depends on what your current activity level is, but this is a good place to start!

How to Incorporate a Healthy Amount of Carbs

Consume more whole grains. 

To consume more carbs, start increasing your whole grain intake! Brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oats are excellent carb sources that are also very versatile. One trick to ensuring you meet your carb requirement is to meal prep with grains. All you need is a rice cooker designed to cook different grains in batches, which you can store in the fridge and eat later. The key here is to be creative and make different food combinations that you won’t get tired of eating.

Eat the rainbow. 

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet can help you reach certain health goals. The more colorful your plate, the better. You’ll be getting healthy carb sources but also adding a variety of nutrients and vitamins into your system, too. If you’re having trouble with this step, you can also incorporate more smoothies into your diet. Using a blender or a food processor, mix fruits and veggies that have a lot of flavor, like berries. Make sure not to add any excess sugars to manage the carbohydrate content.

Snack wisely. 

Finally, understand what goes into your food even if it’s just small snacks you have throughout the day. Choose nutritious snacks over highly processed treats with lots of additives. That way, you can still satisfy your craving without feeling too guilty later on.

When carbohydrates are well-balanced and used to fuel your daily activities, there’s no need to worry about gaining weight from eating them at all. In fact, carbohydrates are necessary to survive and thrive in our daily lives.

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