Carbohydrates are a macronutrient — one of the three primary ways the body takes in energy. Carbs are starches, sugars, and fibers found in grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy products. While carbohydrates are essential to a healthy diet, they can be harmful in excess.
Throughout the day, carbs provide energy for the central nervous system and working muscles in the body. You should consume carbohydrates in the form of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some dairy products can be a healthful, nutrient-dense source of carbs. It is recommended that you keep your added sugar intake under 25% when consuming carbs.
Why You Should Reduce Carbs
Carbs are an excellent source of energy for active individuals, but sedentary people should limit their carbohydrate intake to maintain an ideal weight. The recommended daily amount of carbs for the average adult is 130 grams, or between 45% and 65% of your total calorie intake.
High-carb diets have been connected to a higher risk of chronic disease, decreased physical activity, and obesity. However, carbohydrate quality has been shown to play a more critical role in health than the amount of carbs.
Carb intake from processed grains and added sugars may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. However, non-starchy vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, and whole grains have been shown to be healthful.
Carb intake from processed grains, potatoes, and added sugars may increase the risk of:
Research shows that a diet of excessive carbs may cause a higher occurrence of metabolic disease. Metabolic disease, or metabolic syndrome, is a group of risk factors that contribute to heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome’s risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol), and belly fat.
Research shows that a starchy, high-carb diet may lead to decreased physical activity, and, ultimately, increased weight gain. Excessive weight gain can lead to obesity.
High-carb diets from sugary and starchy sources have been shown to lead to increased weight gain. Excessive weight gain can raise the occurrence of diabetes.
Diets that are high in carbohydrates — especially from high-starch and high-sugar foods — may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in some individuals.
Foods High in Carbs
Many modern foods are packed with excessive carbohydrates, such as starchy foods or sugary drinks. These eight foods are some of the high-carbohydrate foods that should be avoided:
- Soft Pretzel
While delicious, the soft pretzel is a nutrition-poor source of carbohydrates. One medium soft pretzel contains 80 grams of carbs. One serving offers 27% of the daily recommended serving of carbohydrates. This stadium staple should be avoided, especially by those following a low-carb diet.
- Processed Sugared Cereal
A sugary bowl of cereal contains the same amount of carbs as a plate of french fries. While it may seem harmless, a bowl of cereal in the morning is a sugary, unhealthy way to start the day. Whole-grained cereals are power houses or nutrients.
- Canned Fruit
One serving of canned peaches in syrup provides 9% of the recommended serving of carbohydrates. This sugary snack would be better replaced with fresh fruit, a more healthful source of carbs.
Doughnuts are a popular morning treat, but one chocolate-frosted donut contains just under 30 grams of carbs. This rich treat is a nutrient-poor option for breakfast and should be avoided.
One glass of soda contains 26 grams of carbs. That may not seem like a lot, but carbs and sugars in the form of a beverage can add up quickly, as soda is one of the most common sources of empty calories. Studies show that people who drink soda are less likely to consume healthful sources of carbs and other dietary nutrition.
- Potato or Corn Chips
Whether you are a fan of potato chips or corn chips, it’s good to be aware that both contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Chips are also high in saturated fats and, often, sodium.
- Gummy Candy
Just 10 small gummy bears contain 22 grams of carbs. Treats like gummy bears can add up quickly when snacking and offer practically no nutritional value.
- French Fries
One medium-sized order of fries from a popular fast-food restaurant can yield 47 grams of carbs, providing 16% of your daily recommended carbohydrates. French fries are a dish that can quickly add up when it comes to carbs.
Smart Carb Choices
If you’re looking to lower your carb intake, here are a few healthful low-carb choices:
- Meat like beef, chicken, turkey, and venison
- Fruits like strawberries, grapefruit, apricots, and olives
- Vegetables and greens like mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, and kale
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and peanuts
- Dairy products like cheese, butter, and Greek yogurt
- Olive, coconut, or avocado oil
- Water, coffee, and tea
- Dark chocolate