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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide multiple benefits to the diet. Moreover, they contain fiber, which ensures regularity in digestion and can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

There are healthy carbohydrates and those that are considered ’empty calories’, providing very little nutritional value. To ensure you are getting the right nutrients, try to consume those carbohydrates listed in the chart below.

Why they are important: Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Also cause your pancreas to release insulin which aids in:

  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Storing energy
  • Repairing Muscles
  • Intestinal health and waste elimination

Daily Dietary Requirements*: 30% – 40%** of Caloric Intake

If your diet has too little If your diet has too much
  • Pancreas won’t release enough insulin, causing low energy, headaches, muscle cramps and diarrhea
  • Insufficient supply of blood sugar to the body, causing organs to malfunction
  • Ketosis, loss of sodium and dehydration
  • Often causes diets to be higher in fat, which can lead to obesity
  • Pancreas will release too much insulin, causing your body to turn calories into fat
  • May mean you are not getting enough high-quality protein for proper growth and body maintenance
Type of Carbohydrates What you should know Good Food Sources and Serving Size
Simple Carbs
  • They are digested quickly
  • Best to consume these earlier in the day (breakfast), when you are most likely to use the calories
  • Many contain refined sugars and few essential vitamins and minerals
  • Contain fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (milk sugar), as well as several other sugars
  • Apples (1 medium)
  • Applesauce – unsweetened (1/2 cup)
  • Banana – 4″ (1)
  • Berries (1 cup)
  • Cantaloupes (1 cup)
  • Cherries (2/3 cup or 12 cherries)
  • Dried Fruit (2 T)
  • Grapefruit (1/2)
  • Grapes (12 – 15)
  • Juice – 100% fruit (4 – 6 oz)
  • Lemons (1)
  • Low-fat Milk (8 oz)
  • Oranges (1)
  • Pears (1)
  • Plums (2 small)
  • Prunes (3)
  • Soymilk – light (8 oz)
  • Watermelon (1/4 cup)
  • Yogurt – Low-fat and low sugar or plain (1 cup)
Complex Starchy Carbs
  • Provide you with raw energy
  • They take longer to digest, keeping you fuller longer
  • Mix with Complex Fibrous carbs to help slow down the rate of their digestion
  • Beans / Legumes – cooked (1/3 cup)
  • Bagel – large (1/2)
  • Breads – whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, white (1 slice)
  • Cereals (3/4 cup)
  • Corn (1/2 cup)
  • Hummus (1/4 cup)
  • Lentils – cooked (1/3 cup)
  • Cooked cereal – Oatmeal, cream of wheat, oat bran (1/2 cup)
  • Pasta – cooked (1/2 cup)
  • Peas – cooked (1/2 cup)
  • Pita (1/2 6″)
  • Popcorn – lowfat (3 cups)
  • Potatoes – Baked (1 small)
  • Puffed Cereal (1 1/2 cup) Rice – Brown (1/2 cup)
  • Shredded Wheat (3/4 cup)
  • Yams (1/2 cup)
Complex Fibrous Carbs
  • Cannot be absorbed but are rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Fiber cleans your intestines, which allows for better absorption of the nutrients that you get from digestible foods
  • Good All Day!
  • 100% Vegetable Juice (6 oz)
  • 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked:
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflower
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Eggplant
    • Green beans
    • Lettuce
    • Mushrooms
    • Peppers
    • Spinach
    • Squash
    • Tomatoes
    • Zucchini

*Caloric intake requirements vary from person to person. Understanding your personal needs is beneficial. To get an idea of what you need, refer to the ‘Caloric requirements calculator’ under ‘Nutritional Tools’.

** Note that percentage requirements are given in ranges because each individual’s needs vary depending on their level and kind of daily activity. If you tend to be very active, your diet will require more carbohydrates (to maintain your energy level). If you tend to do a lot of strength training, you will need a higher percentage of protein (to help build and repair muscle tissue).

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