Carbs are typically associates as bread, pasta, cookies, fries and other starchy foods. There seems to be an unspoken carbophobia in our society that labels all carbs as the enemy. As it turns out, carbohydrates are broken down into sugars which are the main source of energy in your body. This means carbs are not the enemy after all, but essential for survival.
The demand our bodies have for carbohydrates is often overlooked by fad diets. Many recent food trends include diets that eliminate carbs either partially or almost completely. Some diets such as the ketogenic diet encourage participants to reduce their carb intake to 5-10% of their total daily calories. This percent is vastly different from what the Institution of Medicine (IOM) recommends. The IOM has established an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for daily carbohydrate intake that is 45-65% of total calories. The reason the AMDR for carbohydrates has been set to 45-65% is due to the amount of glucose required for adequate brain function. Since glucose is the only fuel for red blood cells, carbohydrates are extremely important.
In order to understand how much of your diet is made up of carbohydrates it is necessary to know what foods contain them. It is commonly known that foods such as bread and pasta contain high amounts of carbohydrates. Lesser-known is what it actually means for a food to be classified as a carbohydrate. Miriam-Webster defines carbohydrate as “any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (such as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods”. Simply stated, anything that comes from the ground contains carbohydrates. This includes all fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.
Obtaining the correct amount of carbohydrates in a healthy way means eating a wide variety of foods that contain them. Instead of eating grilled cheese and fries which often contains unhealthy oils and processed breads, building a well balanced plate consisting of vegetables, grains, and protein would be a better option. Places in the cafeteria to look for these sustainable carbohydrates would be the salad bar and the section that contains different blends of whole grains. One way to incorporate a lot of wholesome carbs into a cafeteria meal would be making a bowl with rice and or quinoa, lots of vegetables, beans, and some protein.