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The Carbohydrate Advantage

Choose Complex Carbohydrates for Lasting Energy and Good Health

Fiber-rich carbohydrates provide most of the calories in a healthy diet and are the main fuel for the brain and muscles.

About three-quarters of daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Studies show that those who eat the most carbohydrates—especially those found in whole, natural foods like beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—have a lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

On the other hand, studies show that avoiding carbohydrates can actually harm your health, increasing the risk of death from heart disease

For optimal health, choose complex carbohydrates found in whole foods, as they’re high in fiber. Examples include beans, oatmeal, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, quinoa, barley, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These foods are also naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

Limit simple carbs, such as added sugars, syrups (even agave), and white flour. These provide quick energy but have been stripped of nutrients and fiber. The exception is fruit. Sugar in fruit comes with health-boosting fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Be sure to include plenty of colorful fruits in your diet.

Sometimes people avoid carbohydrates because they think they’re fattening. But have you noticed that potatoes are often deep-fried in oil to make french fries—and pizza, bread, and pasta are often just vehicles for butter and cheese? It’s the high-fat oils, butters, and cheeses that really pack in the calories. In fact, gram for gram, fat contains more than twice the calories of carbs. 

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