Learning About Carbohydrates

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient you get from food. It's a great source of energy for your body and helps your brain and nervous system work properly.

How does your body use carbohydrates?

After you eat food with carbs in it, your body digests the carbohydrates and turns them into a kind of sugar that goes into your blood. The blood carries this sugar to the cells in your body. The cells use the sugar to give you energy. Extra sugar is stored in the cells for later use. If it isn't used, it turns into fat.

Where do carbohydrates come from?

The healthiest carbohydrate choices are breads, cereals, and pastas made with whole grains; brown rice; low-fat dairy products; vegetables; legumes such as peas, lentils, and beans; and fruits.

Foods made from refined flour, including bread, pasta, doughnuts, cookies, and desserts, also contain carbohydrates. So do sweets such as candy and soda.

How can you get the right kind and amount of carbs?

Eating too much of anything can lead to weight gain. And that can lead to other health problems.

Here are some tips to help you eat the right amount of the right kind of carbs so you have the nutrition and the energy you need:

  • Eat whole grain foods each day.
    • Buy bread that lists whole grain as the first ingredient, followed by the name of the grain, like whole grain oats or whole grain wheat.
    • Eat brown rice, bulgur, or millet instead of white rice.
    • Eat pasta and cereals made from whole grain flour instead of refined flour.
  • Eat foods from the vegetables and fruits group each day. These include raspberries, apples, figs, oranges, pears, prunes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, corn, peas, and beans. And there are lots of other fruits and vegetables to choose from.
  • Limit the amount of candy and desserts in your diet. Replace sugary drinks like juice and soda with water. Make water your drink of choice.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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