The Carbohydrate Calculator estimates the percentage of carbohydrates a person should consume each day. While this estimate varies depending on a number of factors, the Institute of Medicine recommends that a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates be consumed daily for adults. Other sources recommend that carbohydrates should comprise 40-75% of daily caloric intake.
Types of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are one of three primary macronutrients that provide energy, along with fats and proteins. Carbohydrates are often classified as either simple (monosaccharides and disaccharides) or complex (polysaccharides or oligosaccharides), originally to create a distinction between sugars and other carbohydrates. However, there are many foods that contain multiple types of carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables, which can make the classification of certain foods ambiguous. Although carbohydrates are not essential nutrients (nutrients required for normal physiological function that the body cannot synthesize), they are an efficient source of energy that can potentially reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and type 2 diabetes if consumed in controlled amounts.1
The three main types of carbohydrates are sugar, starch, and fiber:
- Sugars are the simplest form of carbohydrates and can be found naturally in fruits, dairy, and vegetables; they can also be found in processed form in candy, cookies, cakes, and many beverages.
- Starches are complex carbohydrates that can be found naturally in many types of beans, vegetables, and grains.
- Fibers are complex carbohydrates that can be found in fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and many types of beans.
Generally, complex carbohydrates have greater nutritional benefit than simple carbohydrates. Added sugars have little nutritional value and are not necessary for survival. While the body does require some carbohydrates (which are broken down into sugar), it is not necessary to consume sugary foods to meet this need. Complex carbohydrates such as fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and others, also provide the carbohydrates necessary for the body to function, along with many other nutrients it can use. Complex carbs also digest more slowly, allowing a person to fell full for longer periods of time, which can help when trying to control weight. On the other hand, foods comprised of mainly simple carbohydrates such as soda, cookies, juice, and other baked goods, often have large amounts of sugars and fats, potentially leading to weight gain and diabetes since they tend to be easier to consume in excess.2
- Mayo Clinic. "Carbohydrates: how carbs fit into a healthy diet." Nutrition and healthy eating. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705?pg=1.
- Healthline. "Simple Carbohydrates vs. Complex Carbohydrates." https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/simple-carbohydrates-complex-carbohydrates#7.