Carbohydrates are a large family of compounds including sugars, starches, dextrins, dietary fiber, and functional fiber. Your "total carbohydrate" is all of these types added together.
The chief sources of carbohydrate are fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Dietary and functional fiber are important to the health of the digestive tract and may help to lower blood-cholesterol levels and avert heart disease. The other carbohydrates are (or should be, according to most authorities) the body's chief source of energy.
Your Daily Allowance
In September 2002, when the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) first set Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) for energy nutrients, it noted that "children and adults should consume at least 130 grams of carbohydrates each day." But the Board went on to say that this number "is based on the minimum amount of carbohydrates needed to produce enough glucose for the brain to function, and most people regularly consume far more."
(Since a gram of carbohydrate provides four calories, the new guideline suggests that your brain will work poorly if you get fewer than 520 calories per day.)
To set your Personal Daily Allowance (PDA) of carbohydrates, DietPower uses a process of elimination. There are only four energy nutrients: proteins, fats, alcohol, and carbohydrates. To figure the PDA for carbohydrates, the program first calculates the number of calories in your protein, fat, and alcohol PDAs, then assumes that the remainder of your calories must come from carbohydrates. And because there are four calories in a gram of carbohydrate, the number of grams in your PDA is simply that remainder divided by four.
Generally speaking, if you haven't registered as a drinker, the resulting PDA will have 55 to 60 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates¾near the middle of the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) of 45 to 65 percent. But if you do register as a drinker, your PDA of alcohol could account for 10 percent or more of your calories, driving the percentage from carbohydrate as low as 45 or so¾near the bottom of the AMDR. If this troubles you, the best solution may be to revise your PDA of fat, which, at 25 percent of your calories, can be trimmed to as low as 20 percent (if you're 19 or older) and still fall within that nutrient's AMDR. (Ask your doctor; then see Fat, Total.)
The FNB has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for carbohydrates. Presumably, a high intake would be harmful only if it crowded out an adequate intake of protein or fat, or if it provided too many calories, or too little of some nutrient that can't be obtained from carbohydrates.
Revising Your Allowance
If your doctor recommends it, you can revise your PDA with the Personal Daily Allowance Editor.
Color Coding of This Nutrient
The carbohydrate bar in your personal Nutrient History is:
blue for "good"
if you've logged 100 to 150 percent of your PDA
"bad" if you've logged less than 100 percent of your PDA
yellow for "caution" if you've logged more
than 150 percent of your PDA
missing if you've logged no carbohydrates
In a food or recipe's nutrient profile, the carbohydrate bar is:
green for "good"
if getting your entire PDA of calories from this food would give you more
than 150 percent of your PDA of carbohydrates
magenta for "bad" if getting all your calories
from the food would give you less than 50 percent of your PDA of carbohydrates
blue for "neutral"
missing if the amount of carbohydrate is either zero or unknown
On pie charts, the carbohydrate wedge is green:
How Complete Are DietPower's Total-Carbohydrate Readings?
Absolutely complete. Of the 11,000 items in the Food Dictionary, none list their carbohydrate content as "unknown."
(There will be unknowns, of course, if you've added foods to the dictionary with missing carbohydrate figures. But these won't be marked as unknowns. Since carbohydrates are one of the four energy nutrients, DietPower needs a figure in the Carbohydrate column in order to calculate a food's calorie content. If you leave a blank or a question mark there, the program automatically changes it to a zero.)
To see whether a particular food has a carbohydrate reading, open the Food Dictionary and check the food's nutrient profile. If you find a question mark beside "Carbohydrate," it means the amount is unknown. (To see all foods with unknown carbohydrate readings, click the dictionary's PowerFoods tab and sort the foods by carbohydrate power; then scroll toward the bottom of the list until you see foods with question marks in the "Power Rating" column.)
Total Carbohydrate on Food Labels
Most food labels are required to list total carbohydrate (they usually call it just "carbohydrate" or "carbohydrates"), in both grams and percent of Daily Value (DV).
The Daily Value for total carbohydrate is 300 grams. This amount is not necessarily right for you, however¾it's a rough estimate meant to accommodate most of the U.S. population.
For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.
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Last Modified: 7/25/07