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Building Blocks of Nutrition: Carbohydrates

A hot topic ….. are they bad, are they good. I have come full circle on this one. I cut out ALL carbs, to overdoing the carbs, to finding a healthy balance. I spent hours on this topic, wading through the articles and research papers about carbohydrates trying to understand them better. What did I find? Every person’s body is different and will require different carbohydrate intake. It turns out that high or low carb intake is less important than the type of carbohydrate you eat.

The Function of Carbohydrates

  • Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted into energy and used to support bodily functions and physical activity.
  • Carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy to working muscles.
  • They prevent protein from being used as an energy source and enable fat metabolism.
  • Carbohydrates are important for brain function.

Carbohydrates are split into two categories 

Complex carbohydrates

These consist of long chains of sugar molecules (known as polysaccharides).

Wholegrains and foods that have not been processed to remove their fibre are called complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates have a slower, more consistent energy release. They contain more vitamins, minerals and fiber than simple carbs and this helps you feel full for longer.

We find complex carbs in most plant-based foods, such as legumes, grains and starchy vegetables.

Simple carbohydrates

Also called simple sugars, consist of just one or two molecules. They provide a readily available source of energy and metabolise quickly, but the consumer soon feels hungry again.

  • Naturally occurring sugars are found in a variety of fruits, some vegetables and honey.
  • Refined or processed sugars include table sugar, brown sugar, molasses and high-fructose corn syrup.

It’s important we understand the type of carbohydrates we eat. Our body responds very differently to simple and complex carbohydrates.

What Carbs to avoid?

Refined carbs are carbohydrates to avoid. They have been altered in such a way that the processing methods strip the food of the many key vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. These include

  • Fruit drinks
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • White pasta and pastries
  • Processed breads

What Carbs to eat?

According to Dr Axe

Whole, unprocessed carbs are considered healthy carbs.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Yucca
  • Legumes
  • Dates

All these foods have their nutrients intact and have been unaltereed or minimally altered to impact the nutritional value of the food.

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