Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for our bodies and brains. Simply said, they are digested, broken down into glucose and converted into energy. 

Carbs are vital for us to function, to exercise, to think clearly and even to remember things. There are many types of carbohydrates - see overview below.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are actually simple sugars, made up of one or two sugar molecules. They are easy to break down and they provide our bodies with a quick release of energy.  

Natural simple carbs include fruit and dairy produce. Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and water, and dairy with vitamins A and D plus calcium and potassium.  

Refined simple carbs include refined sugar or sucrose. This processed sugar is used for biscuits, cakes, pastries, chocolate, jams, pizzas, snack bars and sweets. These foods cause a spike then a drop in our blood sugar levels, leaving us satisfied for a short time followed by a sudden energy dip.

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are made up of three or more sugar molecules. They are harder to break down and they provide us with a slower release of energy. 

Natural complex carbs are found in whole grains and vegetables. They can be further categorised as starchy or non-starchy:

  • Starchy carbs are found in whole grains such as whole wheat, whole oats, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, whole rye, amaranth, barley, bulgur wheat, freekeh and kamut
  • Starchy vegetables include roots, bulbs and kernels, such as corn, peas, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, zucchini and yams
  • Non-starchy vegetables have fewer calories and they are typically from the flowering part of the plant, such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cucumber, onions, peppers and tomatoes

These sources of natural carbs are good for us, as they not only provide sustained energy, but also provide us with fibre, vitamins, minerals and protein.

Refined complex carbs are the white carbs: white rice and flour. They are found in pasta, bread and other foods, such as cakes, biscuits and pastries. As with the refined simple carbs, they provide energy, but without the other benefits

Healthy carbohydrates

Healthy carbohydrates

Make your meals with non-starchy carbs, i.e. vegetables.

Instead of always using rice, bread or pasta, replace these with sources of starchy carbs such as quinoa and oats, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potato and pumpkin.

These foods leave you feeling fuller and give you long-lasting energy. They also have little effect on your blood sugar levels, thus stabilising your energy throughout the day. 

 

Carbohydrates to watch out for

Carbohydrates to watch out for

Although carbohydrates are necessary for energy, there are some carbohydrates that need to be eaten in moderation.

Limit your intake of simple refined carbohydrates that contain processed sugar, as well as complex refined carbohydrates. They cause too much of a spike in our blood sugar levels, which results in us craving for more of this type of less healthy carbohydrates. 

 

What is calcium?

What is calcium?

Calcium is an essential mineral that is required for the body to function properly.
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