Sugary foods and starchy foods are important to your diet. They give your body important vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Moreover, they provide your body with energy to function. The two types of carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. They are discussed in greater detail in the following sections.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates like glucose are composed of a single sugar molecule while others are composed of two sugar molecules. An example of a simple carbohydrate is sucrose. Sucrose can be added to your tea or to your coffee and is a combination of fructose and glucose.

The rule of thumb is that simpler carbohydrates are absorbed faster than complex carbohydrates. You may notice that when athletes need a burst of energy, they will consume a drink that is high in glucose which is a very simple sugar. One drawback of these rapid rises in blood sugar is the rapid drop which may leave the person hungry, weak, and dizzy.

A lot of simple carbohydrates are harmful for your teeth. Foods that are high in simple carbohydrates are cakes and biscuits. They have a lot of fat and when consumed in excess, may lead to obesity. In order to avoid this, you should select foods that are low in these sugars. Look at the food labels and look for foods that have less than five grams of sugars or less per one hundred grams. Foods that are high in sugar contain more than fifteen grams of sugar per one hundred grams. If the food contains between five to fifteen grams per one hundred grams then it has medium sugar content.

There is an exception to this rule. Sugars that are found in milk, fruits, and vegetables are not harmful in general. The sugars in these foods are lactose and fructose. The body will not metabolize these sugars in an instant because they are usually contained in other substances thus, slowing down the processing of the sugar. For instance, the fructose that is found in fruits is found within the cell walls of the fruit so when the body digests the fruit, it has to break down the cell walls of the fruit before it processes the sugar.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are composed of several sugar molecules combined. Since these sugars are more complex, your body needs more time to break them down. When sugars are broken down slowly, they are released into the bloodstream slowly as well. This will keep the level of sugar in your blood constant without spikes and drops.

One of the main end products of breaking down complex carbohydrates in your body is glucose. Glucose is needed by your organs, tissues, brain, and your entire nervous system. It is important to be loaded with carbohydrates throughout the day so that you can maintain your energy levels. Excellent sources of carbohydrates are oats, bread, pasta, potatoes, cereal, yams, beans, noodles, lentils, couscous, and rice.

According to the Food Standards Agency, your diet must consist of one third carbohydrates. They are important to your health and functioning of your body. In order to make sure that you are getting enough carbohydrates, you should base your main meals around carbohydrates and starchy foods. For instance, you can base your breakfast on having toast or having cereal. For lunch, you can have a potato or Paella rice. For dinner, you can have pasta or some noodles.

How do refined carbohydrates differ from unrefined carbohydrates?

A large portion of the complex carbohydrates that we consume come from sources like rice, oats, and wheat. Refined foods like white bread, white rice, noodles, and pasta have been processed and along the way, have lost fibre and nutrients already. Unrefined carbohydrate-rich foods are simply grounded, flaked, or cracked in order to become edible. When you consume wholegrain, you are consuming the same amount of fibre and nutrients that were in the grains naturally. Moreover, since the body digests wholegrain foods slower, you will feel energetic and full for a longer time.

Research from the MRC Human Nutrition found that ninety percent of adults in the United Kingdom do not have enough wholegrain in their diet. Thus, it can be said that majority of people in the United Kingdom are missing out on a lot of important fibre and nutrients in their diet. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the average adult should consume around eighteen grams of fibre every day. On average, adults only consume only twelve grams of fibre a day. In order to boost your consumption of whole grains, take the following tips into consideration

  • purchase wholegrain biscuits
  • buy wholegrain bread
  • buy wholegrain crackers
  • select wholegrain breakfast cereals
  • instead of white rice, choose brown rice and pasta
  • use whole wheat pitas and pizza bases
  • bake using whole wheat flour instead of white flour

Is it healthy to practice a low carbohydrate diet?

There are a lot of diet books out there that claim that if you cut down on your carbohydrates and increase your protein intake, you will lose weight. On the contrary, the Food Standards Agency states that cutting starchy foods out of your diet will make you lack nutrients and fibre. Moreover, if you practice a high protein diet, you may increase your risk of heart disease because meats tend to have a high content of saturated fat.

How do your differentiate between low-GI and high-GI carbohydrates?

GI stands for Glycaemic Index. This measures the effect of carbohydrates on your sugar level. Foods that have high GI’s are floury potatoes, white rice, and white bread. Your sugar levels tend to spike when you consume these foods. Foods that have a low GI are pulses, porridge oats, and new potatoes. Sugar levels rise gradually with these foods. If you want to diet then you should be consuming low-GI foods. This controls your weight healthier than completely cutting out carbohydrates from your diet. Studies from the MRC Human Nutrition Research does not have supporting evidence that the consumption of low-GI foods instead of high-GI foods can make you lose weight but low-GI carbohydrates have been found to lower the chances of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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