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How Many Carbs Do You Really Need?

By: Nancy Snyderman, M.D.


a. crawford/getty images

One way to figure your daily carb allotment is this: Get 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. This calculation really isn’t tricky. 

  1. Decide how many calories you need to eat in a day to lose weight. For most sensible dieters, 1,200 calories a day should do it for women, and 1,500 to 1,800 calories for men.
  2. Multiply that number by .45, if you’re using the 45 percent recommendation.
  3. Then divide that number by 4, since there are 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate. That will give you the total number of carbohydrate grams you should eat in one day.

So it works like this:

1,200 calories × 0.45 =540
540/4 =135 grams of carbohydrate


d. waters/getty images

Required Carbohydrate Intake

Incidentally, adults require a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates a day, according to the “daily reference intake,” a way of rating what we need for good health. Translating this into everyday foods, this is the same as: 8 slices of whole-grain bread or 3 cups of bran flakes or 6 medium apples or 3 medium baked potatoes. 

There are small paperback books that can give you the calorie, carbohydrate, and fat content of most foods; and the nutritional labeling on commercially prepared foods makes the task simple. As long as you eat in a balanced way—with plenty of vegetables and fruits—you’ll obtain what you need without having to fuss with counting. 


cole group/getty images

Natural carbohydrates are always the best, especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. It is the sugar and starchy man-made carbohydrates like candy bars, cakes, cookies, white bread, white rice, and chips that will do us in.


Excerpted from:
 by Nancy Snyderman, M.D.
© 2009, Crown.



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