5 Questions and Answers about Carbohydrates

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Question #1: What is a carbohydrate?

Answer: Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients. (The other two are protein and fat). They contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Carbohydrates provide most of the energy that we need in our daily lives, both for normal body functions such as our heartbeats, breathing, and digestion and actual physical activity like exercise.

Question #2: What foods contain carbohydrates? 

Answer: You can find carbohydrates in a wide variety of foods, including...

  • Grains and grain products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans and legumes
  • Dairy products
  • Sugars

Question #3: Can or should I eliminate carbohydrates from my eating pattern? 

Answer: It is not wise to completely cut out any macronutrient. High-carbohydrate foods are the best and sometimes only food sources of many essential nutrients, including...

  • Fiber
  • Vitamins C & E
  • The majority of B vitamins
  • Carotenoids and other beneficial phytochemicals
  • Potassium
  • The majority of trace minerals

An eating pattern that is low or deficient in any of these nutrients can lead to many health problems, including increased risk for osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Question #4: Are all carbohydrate foods roughly the same?

Answer: Nope. Not all high-carbohydrate foods are created equal. Some, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide vital nutrients and can actually help you eat fewer calories without hunger, while others are full of empty calories and don't offer much satiety.

Question #5: What carbohydrates are the best to include in my eating pattern?

Answer: Some of the best carbohydrate sources for good health include fruits and vegetables, especially nonstarchy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach. You should also try to eat grains that are in a more whole, unprocessed state like brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal.

Plus, you can find carbohydrates in the dairy and protein food groups. Get 2-3 servings of nonfat, unsweetened/flavored milk or yogurt per day. Choose high-protein foods that are good for your heart, like beans and nuts.

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