The importance of carbohydrates and diet is a very essential part of every person’s life. If you do not follow a healthy diet plan, no matter how much you exercise, your total fitness will not be as effective. Diet and exercise go hand in hand, both are needed to get fit and remain healthy.

But, whenever you mention the word “diet”, confusion settles in. With so many diet plans and fad diets becoming popular, people are often confused about what to consume and what not to consume for the diet to remain healthy and provide the necessary nutrition. While some diets advise the reduction of fats and carbohydrates, others recommend only the reduction of fats.

These different kinds of recommendations often lead to undue confusion and people are generally clueless about what to eat and what not to eat. While some diet plans recommend lower carbohydrate intake, the question is raised whether or not this will have any effect on weight reduction and the regulation of weight.

Carbohydrates are very essential for meeting the body’s energy requirements. This becomes even more vital if the person is conducting regular exercise. With regular exercise, the body’s energy requirements go up. If the carbohydrate intake is reduced, there is no doubt that some people might see some initial reduction in weight loss, but this is not sustained in the long term. Having a low carbohydrate diet will gradually lead to an increase in lethargy and will lead to a gradual increase in weight after the initial weight loss. Often the initial weight loss is actually just the decrease of fluids from the cells, or water weight. This loss of fluids is not always healthy.

So, what role should Carbohydrates take in each person’s diet plan?

Although the actual amount of recommended carbohydrate is different from person to person, the total daily calories from carbohydrate intake should be in the range of 45% to 60% in a given day.

But, before we rush into stocking up on foods containing Carbohydrates, we should first learn a few things about carbohydrates, as not all carbs are beneficial and healthy.

Carbohydrates are different forms of sugar that are converted into glucose within the body, which provides energy to individual cells. Each cell needs the required amount of carbohydrates to provide it the energy it needs to function. If the intake of carbohydrates exceeds the required limits, then the extra glucose is then converted into glycogen for future use or it gets stored up as fat.

What are the different forms of Carbohydrates and which of these forms should be consumed for promoting health and improving weight loss?

There are two types of Carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Another classification of carbohydrates is refined and unrefined.

Complex carbohydrates are those carbohydrates that are made up of strings of simple sugars in a chain. The action of digestive enzymes is much slower on this kind of carbohydrates as they need to be broken down into simple carbohydrates for absorption in the body. This slow digestion provides for a slow and steady energy supply to meet the requirements of the individual cells without getting stored up as glycogen or fat.

Simple carbohydrates are made up of simpler units of sugar and they get digested much more quickly. This increases the possibilities that those “simple carbs” will get stored as fat. However, some fruits contain simple sugars, but the presence of fiber reduces the rate of digestions, thus preventing the conversion to fat. As a general rule, consume your fruits in the morning and early afternoon as an extra way to prevent fat storage, as you are more likely to burn off the simple sugars throughout the day.

So which kind of carbohydrates needs to be taken regularly and which kind needs to be avoided?

It is essential to increase the amount of natural complex carbohydrates and limit the intake of simple carbohydrates in the diet. Complex carbohydrates get digested slowly, they provide needed energy, and are an excellent source of nutrition. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, have little nutritional value and have a high risk of being converted to fat. Simple carbs should be avoided at all costs. The only kind of simple sugars that can be included in the diet is natural simple sugars contained in fruits.

It is also best to avoid any form of refined and highly processed foods in the diet and to opt for natural foods instead. For example, you should avoid drinking fruit juice and eat the fresh fruit instead; avoid canned foods and opt for freshly prepared foods instead, etc.

Most people hate researching healthy food choices. For those people, examining a food label is another way to check for healthy food, versus the not so healthy. A good rule of thumb is to look directly at the amount of calories and the amount of fat on the food label. For example, if the item provides more than 15g of fat per 100 calories, it is best to avoid that food item or at least restrict the amount of that food in your diet. Additionally, if the food label shows the presence of ingredients like sucrose, sugar, corn syrup, or fructose, it means that it has simple carbohydrates in the food item. If these items are listed first on the list of ingredients, than that ingredient is considered a “primary” ingredient and is best avoided completely.

Some examples of good sources of complex carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, root vegetables, whole breads, bran, whole grain cereals, corn, muesli, peas, beans, oats, etc. Examples of foods containing simple carbohydrates include chocolate, table sugar, honey, white bread, soft drinks, jam, canned fruits, pickles, etc.

As we have seen, carbohydrates are very vital in each person’s diet. Although the amount of carbohydrates still needs to be regulated. It is essential to be able to determine the difference in the good sources of carbohydrates, opposed to the bad sources of carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates provide fuel for the body, and the energy needed to workout hard and to lose weight. Simple carbs will result in stored fat, and will have a negative impact on your weight loss goals. It is also important to understand the number of calories your body needs per day. Eating too many healthy calories can still cause weight gain.

For more information on how to calculate you the proper number of calories needed per day, read this article.

For some examples of super complex carbs, check out this article.