Carbohydrates aren’t your enemy. They power every single cell in your body and are the main source of fuel in your brain. Carbs become a problem when you go over your recommendation and have way more calories from carbs than you should. After all, more calories generally means weight gain in the long run.
All carbohydrates, including various types of sugars and starches, have 4 calories in a gram. So if the nutrition facts label says that a serving of a particular food has 35 grams of carbs, just multiply the grams by 4. You’ll get 140 calories from carbohydrates in this case.
Reading the Label
All food labels are based on a set standard of 2,000 calories per day, which includes 300 grams of carbohydrates, or 1,200 calories from carbs. If you’re looking at a food label that says a serving has 35 grams of total carbohydrate, the column on the right shows you the percent daily value, or DV for short. Divide the 35 grams of total carbs by the 300-gram recommendation and you get the percent daily value, which is 12 percent.
Carbs should make up the biggest percentage of your calories, so don’t assume that 35 grams of carbs is too many. You need a lot of carbs. Between 45 and 65 percent of your calories should come from this macronutrient, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states. Figure out your own carb requirement -- if 2,000 calories daily is too high -- by keeping track of your calories for a few days during the week. After determining your average, multiply the calories by 45 and then 65 percent. For an 1,800-calorie daily diet, for example, you can have 810 to 1,170 calories from carbs, which is 202 to 292 grams. Based on this amount, 35 grams of carbs takes up less than 17 percent of your daily allowance.
Of course, if you are following a low-carb type of diet, 35 grams of carbs from a single portion of food may be a bit high. Typically, you have to limit yourself to 50 to 150 grams of carbs per day -- 200 to 600 calories from carbs -- if you’re on a low-carb diet plan, states MayoClinic.com. You might be better off cutting your portion in half so you only get 17.5 grams of carbs, or 70 calories from carbs, instead, depending on how you spend your strict carb allowance.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label
- The Franklin Institute: Nourish -- Carbohydrates Fuel Your Brain
- MayoClinic.com: Low-Carb Diet: Can it Help You Lose Weight?
- Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images