You’ve probably wondered at some point how much carbohydrate you should eat to look, feel, and perform your best.
Your efforts might be better spent, however, looking at the quality of your carbs before worrying about the quantity.
Carbohydrates are chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that our bodies break down into simple sugars to send to the bloodstream, liver, and muscles for immediate use or for storage as glycogen, or into fibers to feed our gut bacteria and/or be excreted (1).
One common method for assessing carb quality is the glycemic index, based on the average rise in blood sugar after a food is eaten.
Fortunately, we have a few other ways to assess the quality of our carbs.
Compared to fruits, tubers, and root vegetables – whose cell walls are still intact – flours, sugars, and processed foods – whose cell walls have been destroyed – have a higher potential for promoting obesity and chronic disease through producing an inflammatory gut microbiome (13).
Finally, foods based on flours, sugars, and grains aren’t as nutrient dense as fruit, tubers, and root vegetables, offering less fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients per calorie (16).
In a nutshell, you might consider getting your carbs from fruits, tubers, and root vegetables, rather than foods based on flours, sugars, and grains.
If you emphasize minimally processed, nutrient dense foods, and finding an approach you can maintain for the long run, you’ll probably end up arriving at the right amount of carbs for you – low, high, or in between (17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24).
You’ve got this.