With all the media hype about low-carb diets, you might assume carbohydrates are bad for you.
Carbohydrates are an essential part of your diet that you need for energy production and digestive health, among other things. The minimum carbohydrate requirement for adults is 130 grams or 45 percent of daily calories. While getting enough carbohydrates is important, it’s also vital to eat the right types of carbs.
The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for carbohydrates for all adults is at least 130 grams per day.
This is the minimum amount deemed necessary for good health for 97 to 98 percent of healthy adults.
Dietary recommendations for carbohydrates are also made in the form of acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges, or AMDRs.
This takes into account the number of calories consumed each day, which can vary widely by age, sex and activity level.
The AMDR for carbs is 45 to 65 percent of total daily calories. Using the AMDR, the carbohydrate intake for a moderately active 32-year-old male would be 1,170 to 1,690 calories from carbs.( Because carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, this translates to 292 to 423 grams of carbs each day, significantly higher than the minimum requirement)
How Low Can You Go?
Before you decide how many grams of carbs you should eat each day, first consider some of the negative effects that can occur if you don’t get enough of the nutrient:
Some ultra-low-carb diets prescribe eating as few as 30 grams of carbs per day. At that rate, you can experience more pronounced side effects as well as deficiencies in key nutrients if you follow the diet for a long time.
Good Vs. Bad Carbs
When a lot of people think of carbs, they think of pizza, potato chips and cake. These are high-carb foods with little nutritional value that should make up only a small part of your calories, if any.
Other carbohydrate-rich foods that can negatively affect your blood sugar levels and promote weight gain include:
Refined, processed grain foods
Pastries and cookies
But there are plenty of healthy carbohydrate foods, densely packed with nutrients essential to good health. Some high carbohydrate foods that should play a starring role in your diet include:
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
Root vegetables such as beets
Fresh fruit such as blueberries and plums
Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and oats
Beans and legumes.
These plant foods are the main source of vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting antioxidants and fiber in your diet. Combined with lean sources of protein and healthy fats, they form a well-rounded diet that will boost your energy and prevent disease.
- Eufic.org: Carbohydrates
- NIH: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges
- NIH: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients
- Dietary Guidelines 2015 – 2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level
- Mayo Clinic: Low-carb diet: Can it help you lose weight?