How Many Carbs a Day Is Healthy?
It feels like the simple joy of eating is gone. Most of us worry about what we eat, what we don’t eat, and if our choices are healthy enough. Our worries specifically apply to carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates (aka carbs) seem particularly bad because of the growing number of low-carb or no-carb diets suggesting we should restrict carb intake. Generally, food provides energy, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water—if eaten without processing.
Therein lies the problem: processing. Carbohydrates are not the enemy. The real issue is more the types of carbohydrates we consume. A nutritional diet includes unprocessed, complex carbohydrates, but why? And how many carbs a day should you consume? This article will dive into the answers to those questions and more.
Why Do We Need Carbohydrates?
The primary role of carbohydrates is to fuel our brain and allow the nutrients in meat, fish, poultry, and other high-protein foods to focus on building and repairing muscle. This carbohydrate role becomes especially critical as we get older.
After the age of 30, we naturally begin to lose muscle mass. Muscle mass is vital to cognition, strength, bone density, immune system, and reducing the risk of falling. We continue to need carbohydrates in our diet to help our bodies maintain muscle.
What Is the Connection Between Carbohydrates and Sugar?
High-quality, complex carbohydrates, like the ones found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, oats, and starches, provide the glucose (sugar) we need for energy. The glucose journey begins and ends in our gastrointestinal tract. We have glucose receptors in our mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines for absorption.
Glucose is essential for muscle and brain function. Sugar’s effect on the brain has a bad reputation, but as you’ve learned, sugar is necessary for proper functioning. Instead of viewing glucose as the enemy, it’s more productive to rework the narrative to reflect the importance of healthy sources of sugar.
Refined sugar can harm your brain, but natural sugars (including those from fruits and complex carbohydrates) are the brain’s preferred fuel source. One study discusses the misinformation in the public domain surrounding sugar and the “critical need of body cells, particularly brain cells, for sugar to function.”
Essentially, carbs and sugar are both essential elements of a healthy diet.
In the last 50 years, our intake of fruits and juices, vegetables, legumes, nuts, soy, eggs, poultry, fish, meat, and dairy products hasn’t changed much. However, our intake of fats, oils, and grains has dramatically changed.
Today’s vending machines no longer contain cigarettes but now supply highly processed carbs. This change translates into the average men and women increase their caloric intake.
Processed foods are high in refined sugar, low in fiber, contain artificial ingredients and trans fats, and contribute to adverse health effects like heart disease and strokes. They lack the essential nutrients needed by your brain and body.
How Many Carbs a Day Do You Need for Healthy Brain Function?
The minimum required daily carb intake is 130 grams for brain function.
Of course, the more active you are, the more carbs you need (a crucial thing to remember if you’re wondering how many carbs you need daily to lose weight). The best food sources for this are whole fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed complex carbs.
When utilized correctly (i.e., you’re consuming complex carbs in moderation), carbohydrates can improve cognitive function. That’s why there’s a minimum amount you should consume daily. Carbohydrates can help provide a steady supply of energy to your brain, essential for maximum cognitive performance.
As we age, we also become more at risk for strokes and decreasing cognitive abilities. The CDC says, “The chance of having a stroke about doubles every 10 years after age 55.” Thankfully, there are effective ways to combat neurological diseases and protect our brain function. As healthy carbohydrates help our bodies produce glucose, we can continue to focus on proper nutrition to support the development and protection of the brain.
If you’re looking for more ways to improve cognitive function, give brain games a try.
Carbohydrates are not to be feared or frowned upon. The key is choosing wisely, eating in moderation, and being aware of the nutrition label when satisfying hunger.
Stay aware of food industry marketing methods, including subliminal messaging that plays on our emotions and products infused with hidden sugars. Read the nutritional labels on food packages and avoid being influenced by marketing ploys that could lead to overeating.
Learn Proper Nutrition and Build Healthy Habits with the Aviv Medical Program
Proper nutrition can profoundly affect brain health and performance, and the Aviv Medical Program, at the Aviv Clinics can help.
The Aviv Medical Program focuses on research and leans on a holistic and personalized approach. Depending on your symptoms, needs, and goals, the program can include the following:
- In-depth review of medical history
- Comprehensive physical and neurological exam
- Physical therapy evaluation
- Gait analysis, when relevant
- Highly advanced brain imaging scans
- Neurocognitive tests
During the treatment, the program can include a combination of the following:
- Cognitive training
- Physical training
- Dietary coaching
- Unique hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol
Based on over a decade of research and development, the Aviv Medical Program takes a multidisciplinary approach to help our clients manage symptoms like brain fog, memory loss associated with age related cognitive decline and conditions such as TBI, stroke, Lyme disease, and fibromyalgia.
Contact Us to Learn More About How We Can Support You or a Loved One.