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Carbohydrate Facts

What are carbohydrates?
How are carbohydrates used in the body?
How many carbohydrates do I need in my diet?
Which foods contain a high percentage of carbohydrates?
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What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are energy-providing nutrients.  The body receives 4 calories per 1 gram of carbohydrates consumed.  Carbohydrates are separated into simple carbohydrates (sugar), complex carbohydrates (fiber) and starch.

Carbohydrates can also be separated into groups based on the Glycemic Index, which measures how high and how quickly blood glucose levels change after eating carbohydrates.  The higher the Glycemic Index, the higher the rise in blood sugar and the longer it takes to return to normal.  For a healthy diet, it is best to focus on foods with a low Glycemic Index (e.g., whole grains, oats, and whole wheat pasta).  Foods with a high Glycemic Index have been linked to elevated risks of heart disease and diabetes.

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How are carbohydrates used in the body?

Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy.  They are easily digested and broken down into glucose, which the body uses to perform its numerous functions.  In contrast, protein and fat are more difficult to digest and are needed to build tissues and cells in the body. For this reason, most of your energy (calories) should come from carbohydrates.

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How many carbohydrates do I need in my diet?

Carbohydrates should account for 45% - 65% of the calories in your diet, which is roughly 225 g 325 g of carbohydrates for someone on a 2000-calories diet.

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Which foods contain a high percentage of carbohydrates?

Most food items contain carbohydrates.  Pasta, bread, rice, milk, potatoes, baked goods, fruits, vegetables, cereals, and popcorn are all high in carbohydrates.

The following is a list of foods that are classified by their Glycemic Index.  Remember, consuming foods with a low Glycemic Index is ideal.
 
Low Glycemic
Index
Moderate Glycemic
Index
High Glycemic Index
Pumpernickel Bread Sourdough or Rye Bread White Bread
Pasta (whole wheat) Shredded Wheat Short-grain rice
Bran Cereal Banana Cornflakes
Soybeans Pineapple Waffles
Lentils Orange Juice Potatoes
Baked Beans Ice Cream Carrots
Peaches Watermelon
Apples Soft Drinks
Oranges Jelly beans
Milk/Yogurt Honey
Chocolate


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