Benefits and Fungsion to carbohydrates lately, You and the rest of America. In a time when it seems as if everyone you know has been on, is on, or is talking about going on very-low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet, it’s understandable to wonder if carbs are the enemy. Should you be cutting carbs or going on a low-carb diet? Are you eating the right carbs? Can eating carbs increase your risk for chronic disease? We’re here to explore this much-debated macronutrient.

What Are Carbohydrates Exactly?

Benefits and Fungsion there are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. If you want to get scientific, a “carb” “refers to a particular molecular structure. It is a string of carbons with a water molecule attached to each of them,” says David Katz, MD, MPH, founder and president of the TrueHealth Initiative in Chesterfield, Missouri, and author of The Truth About Food. And that’s all it says. This particular structure is found in everything from lentils to lollypops, he adds.

How Do Carbs Function in the Body?

Benefits and Fungsion carbohydrates provide energy for our bodies to run on. When you eat a food that contains carbs, the carbs are broken down by the body into glucose. “Glucose is the primary fuel that circulates in our blood at all times. It’s also the principle fuel for the brain,” says Dr. Katz.

The 2015–2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends getting 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbs. Benefits and Fungsion that means if you were to eat a standard 2,000-calorie diet, 900 to 1,300 of your calories would come from carbs. One gram (g) of carbohydrate contains four calories, which means between 225 and 325 g of carbs would be your target intake daily.

But you don’t eat “carbs” alone. You eat food. “One of the places people go wrong is thinking that carbohydrates are indicative of some particular kind of food. However, all plants are made up of carbohydrates,” says Katz. These foods — whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, dairy, and vegetables — also contain essential nutrients, like fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. “Since plant foods are always a carb source, you cannot get any of those essential nutrients [from foods] without eating carbs. It’s valid to say then that carb foods are supporting almost every aspect of human physiology,” he adds.

Do You Need Carbs to Be Healthy? Or Can You Safely Cut Carbs Out of Your Diet Completely?

If you wiped out all the carbs from your diet, benefits and fungsion as some diets (like the carnivore diet, which is essentially an all-meat diet) instruct, you probably wouldn’t feel your best. “Carbs provide all cells of the body with energy needed for mental and physical tasks and activity. They provide about half of all the energy the body needs,” says Farrell Allen. Cut it short and you may feel tired and foggy-headed. That said, there are many success stories from people on low-carb diets, though while you can reduce them, experts say that you should have some carbs in your diet.

“You need carbs on a healthy diet. I don’t advise totally deleting them from your eating plan,” says Kathy Chauncey, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at Texas Tech School of Medicine in Lubbock, and author of Low-Carb Dieting for Dummies. When she advises people on a low-carb eating plan, she recommends they generally eat three to five servings of carbs per day (each being 15 grams of carbs per serving). That equates to 45 to 75 g per day and would qualify as a moderately low-carb plan.

That said, there are various low-carb plans at your disposal (from Atkins and keto, to low-carb paleo and Whole30). No low-carb diet is recommended across the board from experts, and each person has different carb needs, so be sure to ask your healthcare team which plan (if any) is a good fit for you.