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Carbohydrates, or carbs, get a bad rap these days with trendy low-carb diets. But carbs are an important part of a balanced diet. This beginner’s guide will teach you the basics of healthy carbs so you can make informed choices.

What are Carbs?

Carbs are macronutrients that consist of sugar, starch, and fiber. Your body breaks carbs down into glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. There are two main types of carbs

  • Simple carbs: These are composed of just one or two sugar molecules. They digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar. Examples are table sugar, candy, soda.
  • Complex carbs: These consist of long chains of sugar molecules. They take longer to digest and provide longer-lasting energy. Examples are vegetables, whole grains, beans.

Why You Need Carbs

Carbs are your body’s preferred energy source. Here are some key reasons you need carbs in your diet:

  • Fuel for your brain and muscles
  • Help digestion and bowel health
  • Provide vitamins and minerals
  • Prevent protein from being used as energy

Carbs should make up 45-65% of your total daily calorie intake, according to experts.

Carb Food Sources

Focus on getting carbs from foods that provide fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Here are some great sources of complex carbs:

Whole grains: oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread

Fruits: all fruits such as apples, bananas, berries, melons, citrus fruits

Starchy Vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas

Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese

Tips for Balancing Carbs

Follow these tips for keeping your carb intake in balance:

  • Limit added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories
  • Eat more complex versus simple carbs
  • Pair carbs with protein or fat to control blood sugar
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains
  • Read nutrition labels to compare carb content

With a little carb smarts, you can enjoy carbs as part of a nutritious diet! Moderation and variety are key for reaping their nutritional benefits.

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