Carbohydrates are the most significant source of energy ( 1gm provides 4.1 Kcal ) in the diet which is found in all plants foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and in milk and milk products.

How much Carbohydrate do we need per day? In developing countries, up to 85% of energy in the diet is provided by Carbohydrate whereas this figure is as low as 40% in some developed countries. Other than providing energy Carbohydrate additionally plays many other important roles.

  • They Synthesize and form DNA and RNA
  • They Synthesize hormones and fatty acids such as cholesterol
  • They Generate powerful antioxidants which protect our cells from damage and ageing
  • Help in hormone and immune functions 
  • They Regularize bowel movement because of their fibre content ( nonglycemic part )
  • Most importantly Carbohydrates are responsible for the smooth functioning of our brains and neurons.  The body can keep functioning without Carbohydrate but cannot think without it.
  • They also help to grow muscle by sparing protein for repair and growth 


There is a lot of talk about no carbo and low carbs, but is it really advisable to cut down on carbs? 

There is a sea of information available on the web but this actually doesn’t help. They only create confusion. But the point is if we care about our health we will have to eat Carbohydrate optimally.

The right amount and right kind of Carbohydrate at the right time is necessary for the body to function smoothly and optimally.
Carbohydrate is classified by their glycemic index and glycemic load.

Glycemic index (GI), GI ranks carbohydrates depending on how quickly they lead to an increase in our blood glucose and insulin levels. High GI or “ fast “ carbs leads to quick a sharp rise in blood glucose levels and low GI or slow carbs lead to slow i.e. steady rise in blood glucose levels.

High GI foods get converted to fat quickly and low GI foods have a much better chance of getting utilized for energy instead of getting stored as fat.

Glycemic Load, Glycemic load is based on the glycemic index and portion size. It is achieved by multiplying the glycemic index by the carb content of a particular food and dividing that number by 100.

So the glycemic load of a particular meal is the sum of all glycemic loads of all foods consumed during the meal. So even if you fill up on a lot of low GI food, its effect on your body will be similar to eating a small portion of high GI food.

SO TO BURN FAT - the carbs that retain their fibres ( slow carbs ) which have low GI  ( for e.g. hand pound rice, brown rice, whole wheat, nachni, bajra, barley, legumes, dals ) should be on your plate. All sweets, biscuits, pizzas, processed juices, sherbets, jams and jellies are high GI as they don’t have an optimal level of fibres and converts to fat easily.

Though High GI carbs are best utilized after exercises, when your body needs glucose instantly ( but that too in controlled portions). But remember if you eat a lot of brown rice as because it is a low on GI, the glycemic load of your meal will go up because you will end up consuming lots of carbohydrates at one time. Just because it is good for you don’t eat all you want. 

Low GI  carb source

  • Apples, orange, pears, peaches
  • Beans and lentils
  • Pasta ( all types made from durum wheat )
  • Sweet potato, peeled and boiled
  • Sweet corn 
  • Porridge 
  • Custards
  • Noodles
  • All bran 

Medium GI source

  • Honey 
  • Jam
  • Shredded wheat
  • Weetabix
  • Ice cream
  • New potatoes
  • peeled and boiled white basmati rice
  • Pitta bread
  • Couscous

High GI source

  • Glucose
  • White and wholemeal bread
  • Brown rice, cooked
  • White rice, cooked
  • Cornflakes
  • Baked potato
  • Mashed potato

How much carbohydrate do we need?

Now to answer this question we should understand that the amount depends on the total Calories allotted which in turn depends on different factors-
  1. Age, The requirement of Carbohydrate needed varies with age.  Children need more because they are growing, adults need optimally, the aged population needs less . All these requirements decided according to the Calories allotted.

  2. Weight and BMI, From BMI ( Basal Metabolic Index ) and weight we can find out whether the person has an ideal weight, is overweight or obese. Accordingly allotment of calories happen and the amount of Carbohydrate is calculated.

  3. Gender, Male and female have different calorie requirement and therefore the carbohydrate need varies.  According to ICMR 2010   Men whose body weight is 60 kg and does sedentary work needs 2320 calories where women of 60kg doing sedentary work needs 1900 calories. Carbohydrate is calculated on the basis of that.

  4. Activity level, Calories allotted depend on whether a person leads a sedentary  or active lifestyle which in turn affects the amount of carbohydrate. For Athletes, the Carb requirement increases.

  5. Health condition, The amount of Carbohydrate recommended also depends on the health condition. For example  for diabetics Carb intake has to be monitored well for betterment. Generally, Dietitians recommend 60% to 70 % of Total Calories from Carbohydrates ( including simple and Complex ).
According to the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ), the daily value ( DV ) for Carbohydrate is 300 gm when eating a 2000 Cal diet.

 American Diabetes Association offers a simple strategy to structure your plate at every meal to help you get the right amount of carb.

  • Draw an imaginary vertical line down the middle of your plate. Then draw a horizontal line across one half and divide the plate into three sections
  • Fill the big section with non- starchy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, carrot, lettuce or mushrooms
  • Fill one of the small sections with starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, cereals, legumes 
  • Fill the other small section with protein for example you might choose low-fat options such as skinless chicken, fish, eggs etc.


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