Nutrition Basics - Carbohydrates



What are carbohydrates ?

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. One gram of carbohydrate provides 4kcals of energy.  A healthy balanced diet should include 50% to 60% of the calories consumed coming from carbohydrates. The minimum amount of carbohydrate required to prevent the starvation activation systems (ketosis) of fasting is 100 to 150 grams per day. Glucose is the primary fuel for the nervous system, the blood cells and the renal medulla. Individual requirements depend on age, sex, size, and activity level. The majority should come from complex carbohydrates, preferably the whole meal varieties and through large intake of fruits and vegetables. During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the fuel for our bodies. Glucose is burned in all body cells and is the primary source of energy for us to function.  If your body does not have any use for the glucose, it is converted into glycogen and stored it in the liver and muscles as an energy reserve. If people consume more carbohydrates than they need at the time, the body stores some of these carbohydrates within cells (as glycogen) and converts the rest to fat.

Carbohydrates are classified into two types simple and complex.

What are simple carbohydrates?

Simple carbohydrates are digested by the body very quickly. Simple carbohydrates include Glucose, sucrose, fructose and lactose these provide the quickest energy supply to the body. Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in fruits milk and other dairy products. Simple carbohydrates are also often found in refined, processed foods. Examples of foods that contain simple carbohydrates include sugar, corn syrup, white rice, white pasta, candy, cookies, cakes, soft drinks etc. Simple carbohydrates are more refined, are usually found in foods with fewer nutrients, and tend to be less satisfying.

What are complex carbohydrates?

 Complex carbohydrates are high fiber foods. .complex carbohydrates body takes longer time to digest them, resulting in gradual steady stream of energy trough out the day. These are usually high in fiber and nutrient rich and provide many health benefits. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include:

Starch - bread, cereal, potatoes, pasta, rice, and legumes (dried peas and beans).

Fiber - bran, whole-grain foods, raw vegetables and fruit (especially the seeds and skins), legumes, nuts, seeds and popcorn.

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