While low-carbohydrate diets may give carbohydrates a bad reputation, carbohydrates are essentially foods that are broken down into sugars in your body. Don't let the term sugars fool you -- when it comes to your body, sugars mean energy for your cells. Carbohydrates are your body's chief energy source; however, it is important to consume the right carbohydrates for longer-lasting energy.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends getting about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrate sources. To compute how many calories this represents, consider that each gram of carbohydrates has about 4 calories. If you consume an average 2,000-calorie diet, carbohydrates will represent about 900 to 1,300 calories of your average daily diet.
Carbohydrates are not limited to bread products like bagels, cereal, English muffins, cookies or cakes. Fiber is a form of carbohydrate in your daily diet that your body cannot digest, yet it is used to add bulk to your stool, which aids digestion. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes in varying proportions. Whole grains and fiber-containing fruits, vegetables and beans are the preferred choices of carbohydrates in your diet over refined grains, desserts and sugary beverages. This is because your body breaks refined foods down more quickly, meaning they provide a less significant source of energy in your diet.
Diabetes is a condition that affects your body’s ability to use carbohydrates as energy. Without proper management of your carbohydrate intake, you can experience adverse side effects such as nerve damage and mental confusion. For this reason, your physician may recommend an approach to managing your blood sugar known as carbohydrate counting, which establishes a set amount of carbohydrates you should consume on a daily basis. Although diabetic diets in the 1960s recommended that carbohydrates compose about 40 percent of your daily intake, today’s carbohydrate recommended intake is between 50 and 60 percent of your total daily calories, notes dietitian Sue Robbins in the August 2008 issue of “Diabetes Forecast.” You should always work with your physician and dietitian to determine the best intake for your health.
Low-carbohydrate diets like the Atkins Diet represent a departure from traditional recommendations for carbohydrate intake percentages. Diets that advocate consuming less than 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates are considered low-carbohydrate diets, according to Every Diet. However, some diets recommend carbohydrate intake under 25 percent of calories. If you choose to eat a low-carbohydrate diet, you may experience side effects like lack of energy or fatigue due to the lack of carbohydrates as an energy source. Consult your doctor before you begin a low-carbohydrate diet.
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