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Carbohydrates


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LET’S TALK ABOUT CARBOHYDRATES

We all know that we should lower our sugar intake as this is fundamental to health optimisation. But what about the critical role of carbohydrates which are made of sugars and are a basic food group?

There are 3 macronutrients required by our bodies –

• Carbohydrates
• Protein
• Fat

Carbohydrates are the broken down by enzymes in the body and provide the main energy source. They are the sugars, starches and fibres found in fruits, grains and milk products.

Simple
• Complex


Simple carbohydrates as a rule taste very sweet and are digested and absorbed quickly as they are made up of just 1 or 2 sugars.

Because they are absorbed quickly they can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs and as such should be avoided or minimised in the diet as the lows can result in excessive fatigue and headaches.

Simple carbohydrates are high on the ‘glycaemic index’ which is a method of classifying carbohydrates on how quickly and how high they boost blood sugar. Examples of which are sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (sugar from dairy products). There are also simple carbohydrates in sweets, fizzy drinks and syrups, and as such foods do not contain vitamins, minerals or fibre. These are the carbohydrates are bodies do not require as they contain ‘empty calories’ and as such we should avoid eating them.

Furthermore, an excess of simple carbohydrates in the diet has been linked with increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Conversely, complex carbohydrates are made of 3 or more sugars and can provide more sustained energy as they are digested and absorbed much slower in the body. Foods containing complex carbohydrates usually also contain other essential minerals, vitamins and fibre and so should form an important part of a balanced diet. Such foods are often savoury and are low on the glycaemic index. Examples of foods high in complex carbohydrates are starchy foods such as beans, lentils, potatoes, and whole-grains such as brown pasta and rice. Non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, kale and broccoli contain carbohydrates in smaller quantities but most are very high in fibre.

It is important to stress that while carbohydrates are often blamed for weight gain, it is usually the simple carbohydrates/empty calorific foods which are the problem. Complex carbohydrates contain dietary fibre which helps you feel full and which is essential to optimise digestion. As well as eating the right carbohydrates, it is important to consume the right ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fats. The right balance of these will ensure the body processes the carbohydrates as energy an does not store it as fat (which it will if carbohydrates are eaten in excess) .

In general, try to ensure that your intake of starchy carbohydrates does not exceed 25% of your daily food intake, - the balance should be made up of 30% protein and 45% fruit (15%) and vegetables.

LET’S TALK ABOUT CARBOHYDRATES

We all know that we should lower our sugar intake as this is fundamental to health optimisation. But what about the critical role of carbohydrates which are made of sugars and are a basic food group?

There are 3 macronutrients required by our bodies –

• Carbohydrates
• Protein
• Fat

Carbohydrates are the broken down by enzymes in the body and provide the main energy source. They are the sugars, starches and fibres found in fruits, grains and milk products.

Simple
• Complex


Simple carbohydrates as a rule taste very sweet and are digested and absorbed quickly as they are made up of just 1 or 2 sugars.

Because they are absorbed quickly they can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs and as such should be avoided or minimised in the diet as the lows can result in excessive fatigue and headaches.

Simple carbohydrates are high on the ‘glycaemic index’ which is a method of classifying carbohydrates on how quickly and how high they boost blood sugar. Examples of which are sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (sugar from dairy products). There are also simple carbohydrates in sweets, fizzy drinks and syrups, and as such foods do not contain vitamins, minerals or fibre. These are the carbohydrates are bodies do not require as they contain ‘empty calories’ and as such we should avoid eating them.

Furthermore, an excess of simple carbohydrates in the diet has been linked with increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Conversely, complex carbohydrates are made of 3 or more sugars and can provide more sustained energy as they are digested and absorbed much slower in the body. Foods containing complex carbohydrates usually also contain other essential minerals, vitamins and fibre and so should form an important part of a balanced diet. Such foods are often savoury and are low on the glycaemic index. Examples of foods high in complex carbohydrates are starchy foods such as beans, lentils, potatoes, and whole-grains such as brown pasta and rice. Non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, kale and broccoli contain carbohydrates in smaller quantities but most are very high in fibre.

It is important to stress that while carbohydrates are often blamed for weight gain, it is usually the simple carbohydrates/empty calorific foods which are the problem. Complex carbohydrates contain dietary fibre which helps you feel full and which is essential to optimise digestion. As well as eating the right carbohydrates, it is important to consume the right ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fats. The right balance of these will ensure the body processes the carbohydrates as energy an does not store it as fat (which it will if carbohydrates are eaten in excess) .

In general, try to ensure that your intake of starchy carbohydrates does not exceed 25% of your daily food intake, - the balance should be made up of 30% protein and 45% fruit (15%) and vegetables.

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