How many carbs should one eat in a day? This is a loaded question for various reasons depending on whether you’re on a weight loss, low-carb, or “no-carb” diet. The average American consumes 225g to 325g of carbs every day. The number of carbs you need is greatly based on factors like your dietary needs and if you’re on a diet program. The general guidelines for weight loss programs are 50g to 150g of carbs per day, which is much lower than the USA’s national average. If you just want to maintain your current bodyweight then you’ll also want to know the guidelines for that situation.
Another key issue to take up is what exactly a carbohydrate is. Some low-carb diets make it seem that they’re unhealthy or even dangerous. However, carbs are simply one of the three macronutrients. The other two are protein and fat. The human body gets instant energy from carbs, which is different from how it gets energy from proteins and fat. For example, if your body goes into a state of “ketosis” this causes it to start getting energy from stored fat instead of carbs. The main issue when consuming carbs is making sure they’re “good” carbs like whole grains, fruits/veggies, and nuts/seeds.
What Are Carbohydrates All About?
This is the first big question to take up. Due to the popularity of low-carb diets, it might seem that all carbs are unhealthy. Some programs like modified Keto decrease carb intake to 5% of a person’s total calories. This is compared to carbs making up to two-thirds of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Carbohydrates are natural starches, sugars, and fiber found in different foods. Sugar molecules from carbs. When the sugar molecules connect they make up starches/fiber. Then in the body, the starches/sugars get broken down into glucose (blood sugar) in the digestive system. Glucose is important to provide the body with the energy it needs to function properly.
Fiber is a kind of carb that the digestion process breaks down. It goes through different body parts including the stomach, intestine (small), and colon.
The way that scientists classify carbs is different now. In the past, they grouped them into complex and simple carbohydrates. Starches/fiber make up complex carbs.
Meanwhile, natural sugars make up simple carbohydrates. They’re found in natural foods like fruits, veggies, and milk. Other sources include sugars (white, brown, raw), maple syrup, honey, and any added sugar in store-bought food.
Scientists classify carbs differently today. It’s based on their ingredients and fiber. This helps to determine what’s a “good” and “bad” carb. In most cases, good carbs include high-fiber content. This requires more time for the body to break down the food and use them as energy.
Some sources of good carbs include:
- Whole Grains
- Whole Wheat Flour
Meanwhile, “bad” carbs usually refer to refined carbohydrates that are low-fiber. Some of the main options include refined sugar and white flour. These are highly-processed ingredients that can cause various health issues like inflammation and blood sugar spikes.
Some “bad” carbs include:
- White bread
- White rice
- Cereals (refined)
How Many Carbs Should One Eat in a Day?
This is a simple question with a complex answer. There are various factors to consider. If you’re on a low-carb diet then your total carb intake could range from 5% to 10% of your total daily calories. For example, a standard Keto diet allows up to 50g of carbs per day. However, a modified Keto might only allow half of that.
The main goal of these diets is for your body to go into a state of “ketosis.” This causes the body to burn up energy from remaining carbs and stored blood sugar. It then starts breaking down fat. This can lead to weight loss since every pound of fat equals 3,500 calories.
While low-carb diets seem to help with weight loss there’s also some controversy involved. For example, many health experts recommend only going low-carb for up to two months. The reason is the body’s first choice for energy is carbs, and the body is hardwired to break down fat only in emergencies.
However, it’s worth noting that diet programs like Keto and Atkins are quite extreme. The Average American diet is up to two-thirds carbs. Dropping the figure to 5% is quite a big change. As noted these diets are generally designed to provide short-term weight loss.
If you want to go on a basic weight loss program then health experts generally recommend dropping carbs to a range like 50g to 150g. This is a wide range but provides some leeway. How many carbs should one eat in a day? If you want the fastest results you should consume closer to 50g of carbs/day.
One caveat is that it’s important to make your calories count if you’re going to decrease them drastically. This includes whole foods and minimally-processed foods.
They’re higher in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Less processed foods will also help boost the amount of instant energy they can provide.
High-Carb Foods to Avoid on Low-Carb Diets
These include options like beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. For example, a large white potato can have nearly 60g of carbs. These veggies can cause blood sugar spikes when you eat a large amount. Besides that, the high-carb content will keep you out of ketosis and make weight loss tougher.
This includes various products like bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, pies, etc. All kinds of wheat flour are high-carb. Besides that, white flour is more likely to cause blood sugar spikes. This can lead to health issues like inflammation and a higher risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, etc.
This includes all types like white, brown, and raw. Table sugar is highly processed and has a glycemic index (GI) score of 100. Even healthier sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and molasses are also high-carb due to the natural sugars.
It might be surprised how high certain fruits are in carbs. This is due to the natural sugars they contain. These sugars are healthier than table sugar. However, they can still cause blood sugar spikes. The best low-carb fruits include raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and avocados.
Meanwhile, other fruits are quite high in carbs. For example, one mango has 50g, which is a whole day’s worth on Keto or Atkins. There are other high-carb fruits like apples and bananas. These fruits can be very healthy so it’s OK to consume them sometimes.
These aren’t allowed on low-carb diets like Keto and Atkins. For example, one cup of all-purpose wheat flour has a sky-high 95g of carbs. That’s nearly 200% allowed for an entire day on the ketogenic diet. Some good options include almond/coconut flour. These are even lower in net carbs when the fiber is subtracted from total carbs after learning how many carbs should one eat in a day.