How Much Carbohydrate?

Experts advise consuming about 55 to 60 percent of your total daily calories from carbohydrates, mostly complex carbohydrates, and no more than 30 percent of calories from fat. In a 2,000 calorie a day diet, that’s 1,100 calories or more from carbohydrates.

To reach this guideline, most Americans need to boost their carbohydrate intake and lower their fat intake. On average, Americans consume about 50 percent of their calories from carbohydrate and 33 percent from fat. Protein supplies about 15 percent, and alcohol the remaining 2 percent.

If experts recommend consuming less fat and more “carbs,” why do the Dietary Guidelines advise: Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars?There are two reasons.

First, sugars contribute energy, or calories, yet no other nutrients. Some foods high in sugar supply food energy and few other nutrients and, for some people, may take the place of more nutritious foods and the vitamins and minerals they provide. To compare, foods with complex carbohydrates usually have less fat but more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Second, both sugars and starches in foods can promote tooth decay, especially when eaten frequently as snacks. When you’re really active, you may need extra calories for energy. If you’ve eaten a varied and balanced diet that meets the recommendations of the Food Guide Pyramid, sugars can supply some of that extra energy.

Sugars in Your Food

Natural or added, sugars are found in all kinds of food. Seventy-five years ago, homemakers baked with sugars and honey, prepared jellies and jams with sugars, and flavored homemade baked beans with molasses or sorghum molasses. In one recipe or another, about two-thirds of the sugars added to food came from domestic kitchens. Only about one-third were added during commercial food processing. Today those numbers are reversed as more and more households depend on convenience foods rather than home cooking.

No matter what their source, moderate amounts of sugars are part of healthful eating, especially since they’re naturally part of many foods and an essential ingredient in others.

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