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Understanding Carbs

The body uses carbohydrate compounds for energy. They are found in almost every type of food you eat. All carbohydrates are made up of individual molecules. There are two different types. The first is the most basic of carbohydrates which includes the sugar you put in your tea. This ‘simple ’ carbohydrate consists of just one or two of these molecules.

The other more complex carbohydrate is found within starchy foods. These are made up of a number of sugar molecules joined together. These are found in bread, pasta and rice, as well as some types of fruit and vegetable.

Why do I need carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are your body’s most important source of energy. When you eat a carbohydrate, it’s broken down by your digestive system into single molecules of glucose (which is the main form of fuel for your body). The glucose is then circulated in your blood to every cell within your body.

If you don’t consume enough carbohydrates within your diet, your body will begin to break down fat followed by protein, to get the glucose it needs. Protein is vital for your body to be able to grow and repair, so using it as an energy source leaves little protein to carry out these vital functions. Eating enough carbohydrate will prevent this.

Which carbs are good? Which carbs are bad?

Carbohydrates are not as fattening as has been suggested. It’s not good to consume too much, but if you eat more carbohydrates than your body can burn off as energy, your body’s glucose stores will become saturated and the excess will be converted to fat. So in this case, your body will begin to put on weight. But removing them from the diet is not a viable option as carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet. The key is picking the right type of carbohydrates as some carbohydrates are healthier than others.

The bad:

Sugary foods such as cakes and biscuits are high in fat, but do not contain many other useful nutrients. They contribute to your energy intake but have little other value. Not only that, but sugary foods contain a lot of calories. It’s therefore best to limit your intake of sugary foods and stick to starchy foods.

The good:

Generally the best starchy carbohydrates are wholegrain foods including bread, pasta and cereal. Wholegrains contain a host of important nutrients that are considered to reduce your risk of heart disease and bowel cancer. Wholegrains are also more likely to keep you feeling fuller for longer – as they normally take longer to digest than processed foods and contain more fibre. This factor helps to control your appetite, helping you to maintain a healthy weight.