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Consequences of Underconsumption of Carbohydrates

By Stephanie Margolis

The body needs fuel, and 40 percent to 65 percent of it should come from carbohydrates. This macronutrient -- found almost everywhere -- provides energy, fiber and nutrients. Grains, fruits, vegetables, milk products and even sugar contain carbohydrates in varying amounts. Sugar and refined grains provide few nutrients and too many calories, so some people decide to eliminate carbs entirely. But not eating enough carbohydrates can take a toll on your health.

The Minimum Amount Required

Consuming less than 35 percent of your total calories from carbohydrates is considered insufficient and is typically done in an effort to lose weight. While some may lose weight in the short term, it is not because of the carbohydrates but rather a decrease in total calories. In the long term, this restrictive diet does not lead to more weight lost compared to those who reduced calories. Eliminating an entire food group may also mean a lack of other nutrients in the diet.

The Fiber Factor

Fiber is the true standout nutrient found in carbohydrates. Adults should aim to eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Fiber helps regulate removal of waste from digestion, reduce the risk of heart disease and regulate blood glucose levels. When you don't get enough carbohydrates -- and fail to focus on other sources of fiber -- adequate intake of the nutrient is jeopardized. This may lead to constipation, increase your risk of heart disease and leave you feeling less full.

Nutrient Needs

Those who do not eat enough carbohydrates may find their diet lacking in B vitamins, folate, iron, magnesium and selenium -- disturbing their overall health. B vitamins help the body turn food into energy, so underconsumption can lead to less spring in your step. Folate is added to many grains and is vital to women who may become pregnant. The vitamin helps develop a healthy brain and nervous system in babies. Low carbohydrate intake can also lead to decreased immunity, impaired bone health and even anemia.

Carbohydrate Control

There are exceptions, though. Celiac disease and diabetes are two conditions that require a carbohydrate-controlled diet. Carbohydrates can impact the blood sugar levels of a diabetic and must be closely monitored. This does not mean eliminating the nutrient; instead, diabetics need to focus on the right type and amount. Those suffering from celiac disease are sensitive to gluten, which is found in many carbohydrate-rich foods, so alternatives must be found. In both cases, a balanced approach to eating is necessary to ensure all nutrient needs are met.

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