Food & Nutrition

12 Silent Signs You Should Be Eating More Carbs

Yes, carbs have a bad reputation. But they’re necessary for your body to function optimally. Know the signs that you actually need more carbs in your diet.

Carbs 101

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Carbs get a bad rap, to the point where people skip them altogether. That’s silly. Only some types of carbs are actually unhealthy. The good ones fuel your body, give you energy, and can help you lose and keep weight off. Not all carbs are created equal, though. So the first step is separating the bad from the good: Simple carbs such as those from refined flour and sugars—crackers, bread, sweets, and pasta—hike up your blood sugar levels and can increase inflammation while adding pounds. But complex carbohydrates—you get these in whole grains, veggies, fruits, and beans, for example—provide fiber and help promote a flat belly and optimal health.

How many carbohydrates you need

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you get about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbs. So, if you eat about 2,000 calories a day, that means between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates (that translates to 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day). If you don’t exercise much, you can eat fewer carbs, says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, a dietitian based in Dallas. To get a sense of where you are, spend a day tracking your intake by checking the carbohydrate content of packaged foods on the nutrition facts label. The label shows total carbohydrates, which include starches, fiber, sugar alcohols, and naturally occurring and added sugars. The label might also separately list total fiber, soluble fiber, and sugar. Read on to see if you have any of the telltale signs that you aren’t getting enough carbs.

Your breath stinks

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When you consistently aren’t getting enough carbs, your body burns fat and protein for fuel and energy instead of carbs. It’s a process called ketosis. A potential side effect: really bad breath. That’s because the ketones being excreted in your saliva have an odor. “You want to bring your body out of ketosis to fix the bad breath,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “Generally, consistently eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day will keep your body in ketosis. So amp up carb intake by eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains.” You also want to drink lots of water. “It helps bad breath and aids in digestion,” says Phyl London, a Level IV master trainer specializing in Pilates and group exercise instruction who created Bodiphy, a program that combines Pilates, Barre, strength, and alignment training. London also suggests eating apples: “They have high levels of phenols which literally deodorize.”

You’re moody

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“Hangry”—hungry plus angry—is a real thing for low-carb dieters. Carbs play a role in the production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that’s produced in the brain. Plus, without enough glucose, basic brain functions are impacted. That can lead to irritability and frustration. When you cut down on carb consumption, it can make you really crabby since you aren’t getting enough calories and your blood sugar is low. “Carbs are the king of comfort,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of and author of Read It Before You Eat It -Taking You from Label to Table.They raise serotonin—the brain’s feel-good chemical—levels to calm you.” Plus, you can’t turn to comfort foods like mac and cheese when you’re in a bad mood. “This is especially true in the first weeks of a low-carbohydrate diet,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RDN of Essence Nutrition. She suggests eating berries, which can also help combat headaches since they’re hydrating. Check out these 7 healthy carb foods nutritionists would like you to eat.

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