by Catherine Middleton (Nutritionist)
Carbohydrates can have a bad reputation. You are probably thinking that carbohydrates make you tired or you can gain weight. This simply isn’t true if you are eating the right carbohydrates, because of their health benefits they hold an important place in your diet. In fact, your body needs carbohydrates to function at its full capacity.
Many cultures and people still follow traditional preparations for grains that have been passed down through the generations, and these do embody good health. There are also millions of people globally with bad health from eating over industrialised carbohydrates that have been slowly deteriorating their bodies.
Simple carbohydrates come in all shapes and sizes, you can spot them throughout the supermarket from soft drinks, fruit juices, biscuits, cakes, chocolate, confectionery, cereal, sauces, and much more. These carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body, spiking blood sugar levels, before dropping you off a cliff. This affects your energy levels, body weight and mood.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long complex chains. These chains take a lot longer to break down, making you feel fuller for longer. These types are found in foods such as vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Both simple and complex carbohydrates turn into glucose (blood sugar) in the body which is used as energy.
There are 3 main components found in carbohydrates:
- Sugar– it is the simplest form of carbohydrate and occurs naturally in some foods, which include fruit, vegetables, milk, and dairy products.
- Starch– is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it has many sugar units bonded together in a chain. Found naturally in vegetables, grains, cooked and dry beans and peas.
- Fibre– is also a complex carbohydrate. Occurs naturally in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
Now you are probably wanting to know why you should include carbohydrates into your diet.
Energy– If you read my last article on sugars, you will know that carbohydrates get broken down into sugars and are absorbed into your bloodstream as glucose. Glucose fuels your daily activity from simply breathing or going for a run.
Protection against disease– There is some evidence that wholegrains and dietary fibre from wholefoods help to reduce the risk of having cardiovascular disease. Fibre can also protect against obesity, type 2 diabetes and is essential for your digestive health.
Controlling weight– Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains can help you control your weight. The fibre content will make you feel fuller for longer on fewer calories. Contrary to what low- carb diets claim, there are not many studies that claim a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates
lead to gaining weight or obesity.
Refined carbohydrates are carbohydrates that have been processed, for example in grain
products the bran and kernel is stripped out, leaving only the starch. As most of the fibre is
removed by this process the carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body and can
raise blood glucose levels as quickly as simple sugars. For example, white rice and white flour.
PICK YOUR CARBOHYDRATES WISELY
Because carbohydrates are essential for a healthy balanced diet and provide important nutrients.
Here are some important tips for a balanced diet.
- Fibre rich fruit and vegetables (fresh or frozen)
- Choose whole grains
- Low fat dairy product (be aware of added sugar)
- Eat more legumes
- Limit added sugar
- Choose food that is not processed.
REMEMBER, FRESH IS BEST!