How Many Carbohydrates Should You Eat Per Day?


How many carbs per day do I need?

Carbohydrate, like protein, is measured in grams (g). The U.S. Department of Agriculture Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates for children and adults, males and females, is 130g. However, this value is the minimum recommended intake to spare fat and protein from being broken down and used for energy and to fuel the brain/nervous system (rely solely on glucose for energy, the building block of carbohydrate). Healthy, active adults may need twice that amount daily. About ½ or 50% (45% to 65%) of your calories should come from carbohydrates. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that equates to roughly 250g daily.

How many carbs per day should I eat to lose weight?

Cutting your carbohydrate intake is not necessarily the best way to lose weight. Creating a caloric deficit, or expending/burning more calories than you take in and require for weight maintenance is a better method for weight loss. You should consume at least the minimum (RDA) for carbohydrates, 130g daily, regardless of your weight goals. Keep in mind that fat provides over twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein. Thus, cutting down on fats, especially unhealthy trans and saturated fats will have a greater impact on reducing your total caloric intake.

Not all carbohydrate-rich foods are created equal. Healthy foods, such as beans, peas, whole grain breads, cereals and starchy, root vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates. These choices are higher in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined carbohydrate foods, such as crackers, white bread, cookies and cakes, which, along with sodas and many condiments, are high in sugar. Instead of worrying about how many ‘grams’ of carbohydrates you consume daily, select fiber-rich complex carbohydrates most often and cut back on added sugars.
While the nutrition facts panel does not indicate whether the sugar is ‘natural’ or ‘added,’ be aware that 4g of sugar (listed under carbohydrates on the nutrition facts panel), is the equivalent of 1 tsp. of sugar. When selecting packaged foods (with a nutrition facts panel), take a look at the sugar content (listed under ‘carbohydrate’ and measured in grams). Aim to limit your daily sugar intake to 50g/about 12 tsp.

How many carbs per day are allowed on a low carb diet, such as Atkins?

Low carbohydrate diets, such as the Atkins diet, usually advise restricting your total carbohydrate intake to much lower than the minimum amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When you nearly eliminate a food group, such as carbs, you are avoiding all carbs, complex and refined, thus significantly lowering your caloric intake. Usually these diets have phases, starting at the lowest or most restrictive carb level, maybe as low as 20g daily, to a maximum (in the lifetime maintenance phase) of about 90g daily. For Atkins specifically, your lifetime maximum varies by individual and takes ‘trial and error.’ It’s the most you can consume daily without gaining any of the weight you have lost.

How many carbs per day are allowed for a diabetic?

A common misconception about the diabetic diet is that it is or should be low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrate is an essential nutrient; however, when broken down to glucose, it has the greatest impact on blood sugar levels. If you are following a diabetic diet, pay most attention to selecting proper portion sizes, choosing fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and eating about the same amount of carbohydrate (in grams) over evenly spaced meals and snacks during the day. Although exact amounts will vary per individual needs, the number of carbohydrate grams depends upon the calorie level. Even individuals with type II diabetes should, on average, strive to devote 50% of their total caloric intake to carbohydrates. On a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be about 250g, on a 1,600 calorie diet; it would be about 200g. Individuals with type I (insulin dependent) diabetes are on insulin and may be able to consume a more liberal diet.

How many carbohydrates in fruit? Are there any ‘low-carb’ fruits?

The carbohydrate content of fruit depends upon the type, its form (fresh/dried) and the serving size.  In general, one ‘serving,’ such as a small piece of whole fruit, ½ cup canned fruit in juice (drained), ½ cup grapes or 2 tbsp. of raisins provides 15g (±5g) carbohydrates. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference, one raw apple with skin provides 19g carbohydrates, ½ large banana provides 13g and 1 cup of unsweetened fresh berries, such as blackberries, strawberries, blueberries or raspberries provides 13 to 20g total carbohydrates.

Avocadoes and tomatoes are both relatively low-carb fruits. A 1-oz. serving of raw avocado provides less than 4g carbohydrates and one thick slice of raw tomato, less than 1g carbohydrate.  Cherry tomatoes are higher in total carbohydrates but still provide less than other fruits, offering about 7g for 10 cherry tomatoes.


  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005). This report may be accessed via
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrition Database for Standard Reference. Content of Selected Carbohydrate, by difference (g) Foods per Common Measure, sorted alphabetically:


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