For years you have heard that low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are best. Recently, however, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets have become fashionable in some circles. So which is it, high-carb or low-carb and why do we need carbohydrates at all?
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Found in our most commonly eaten foods (bread, pasta, potatoes, starchy vegetables, grains, fruits and vegetables), carbohydrates provide energy for the body's most demanding tasks. When digested, they form glucose, a type of sugar that supplies our cells with the energy they need to function.
Fat and protein both require complex digestive processes to form usable energy. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are universally known as the body's preferred source of fuel. This is because they convert efficiently to glucose. Whether you are a recreational hiker or competitive endurance athlete, carbohydrates are what get you down the trail.
When people talk about low- and high-carbohydrate diets, they usually talk in terms of the percent of total calories supplied by carbohydrates. Low-carb proponents recommend 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates; high-carb proponents say 60 to 75 percent.