Occurrence and Requirements

Only plant foods provide carbohydrates. Absolute carbohydrate in foods contents vary widely (A). Contents in dry goods like grains or grain products are relatively high, whereas fruits contain only 10% weight in carbohydrates. Vegetables, with the exception of legumes, tend to be rather low in carbohydrates.

The average adult needs at least 200 g glucose/d for use by glucose-dependent organs. The brain alone needs 140 g/d. At any age, at least 25 % of caloric intake should come from carbohydrates to avoid loss of protein (gluconeogenesis) and increased lipolysis. Using the example of a middle-aged man of normal weight, that means a minimum of 147 g/d. The AMDR, as which the most recent intake recommendations for energy nutrients are expressed, is 4565% of energy (265-380 g/carbohy-drate for a 2345 kcal/d intake). The decrease in carbohydrate consumption during the past century occurred at the expense of complex carbohydrates. Grains, which used to supply the bulk of carbohydrate calories, were the big losers (B). When carbohydrate intakes started to rise again, largely due to the fat-free craze, the increase came mostly from simple sugars, sucrose in particular, and later high fructose corn syrup (C). The average consumption of caloric sweeteners in America today is 72 kg/person/year. This is not just an American issue. Since 1960, sugar consumption worldwide has increased by a factor of >2.5. Most of the U.S. sugar intake comes from "hidden sugars" in soft drinks, baked goods, fruit drinks, etc. (D). Many people routinely replace the sugar in coffee with noncaloric "diet" sweeteners, but disregard "hidden" sugars. Tomato ketch up or mustard, for example, may contain up to 30% sugar. Most caloric sweeteners are not only cariogenic, but may also upset the energy balance. Furthermore, scientific evidence increasingly points to insulin peaks due to consumption of high-glycemic index foods as a risk factor for vascular damage. Some other commonly raised arguments against sugar lack a scientific basis. For instance, sugar is often said to "rob you of vitamins." This phrase suggests that sugar consumption increases the vitamin requirements to such a level that they can no longer be met. This idea is not supported by scientific evidence. Fact is that sugars are "empty calories," meaning that their nutrient density is low or zero.

If more than 20 % of the caloric intake, as it is common in youngsters nowadays, derives from sugar, they are—to state it in a very simplified manner—just not getting 20 % of the vitamins, fiber, etc. they should. Therefore, carbohydrate intake recommendations should spec-iffy that consumers should focus on unrefined plant sources (whole grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables). Additionally, foods rich in carbohydrates are major sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Finally, high-carbohydrate foods with high water content are relatively low in calories.

Following the above guidelines would also increase fiber intake. The AI for total fiber in the U.S. is 25 g/d for women, 38 g/d for men (21 and 30 g, respectively for men and women over 50). The actual average intake is 15 g/d. These figures include fiber from foods as well as isolated functional fiber supplements.

Occurrence and Requirements 83

  • A. Carbohydrate Content of Foods (per 100 g)
  • A. Carbohydrate Content of Foods (per 100 g)
- B. U.S. Flour and Cereal Consumption

- C. Sugar Consumption

U.S. Consumption of Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup, 1975 - 2001

Refined Sugar

ir 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2001

D. Sources of Added Sugar -



Soft drinks


Baked goods


Fruit drinks


Dairy desserts




Breakfast cereals




Other (includes most table sugars)




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