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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the energy giving ingredient containing 4 calories per gram. Complex and simple carbohydrates or Saccharides are organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, with many variations to ratio. The different combinations lead to a variety of different foods including Breads, Pastas, Nuts and Potatoes. They are also found in foods that are made of refined starches which tend to be the more unhealthy option, common foods like White Bread, Pasta and Flour. These starches and sugars are also used in combination to produce foods with added sugars like Cakes and Biscuits which can be detrimental to the body in gross quantities.

Carbohydrates are used in the body for more than just energy, even though this is thought to be there most common process, the break up of glucose (where the energy comes from) also provides protection for muscles and good bacteria for the intestinal track to help the digestion of food. The sensible use of fibre in the diet may also lead to lower cholesterol levels and aide in the absorption of calcium. When the excess glucose is not used by the body, it becomes stored in fat cells, these then grow or add more fat to accommodate the amount a person is eating and not working off.

There are two main types of Carbohydrates that need to be specified when we think of how they are being processed in the body;

  • Complex Carbohydrates - These types take much longer to process in the body and will contribute to prolonged energy release, this is because of the higher levels of vitamins and nutrients. Complex carbohydrates are much more beneficial when attempting a healthy lifestyle, they give the body more nutrition to work with and last longer as an energy source. The common examples of complex carbohydrates include Wholegrains, Brown Rice, Oats and Wheat, any food type specific to these ingredients will be a much healthier option than their processed equivalent i.e. Wholegrain Bread over White.
  • Simple Carbohydrates - This type is a lot closer to process food, also classified as simple sugars as the two relatively the same. They break up very quickly in the body and are used as an immediate source of energy that will burn out quicker, however they can be much more unhealthy for the body as many contain refined sugars and very few nutrients or vitamins. There are many examples of simple carbohydrates including Sugar (White or Brown), honey, milk and Fruit Juices, biscuits, cake and chocolates.

Carbohydrates can be found in a lot of food, as they are a build up of sugars and starch, even in some vegetables such as peas and corn, which are often thought of as a separate category but actually count as carbohydrates. They are processed though the body in very similar ways, the key difference becomes what you get for your 4 calories per gram.

Complex Carbohydrates are packed with vitamins and fibre, they are an excellent source of energy and should chosen over the unhealthier alternatives. Simple carbohydrates that are processed quickly, can simply leave you to feeling hungrier, this is because of the process in breaking up the food, the longer it takes to process (like with complex carbohydrates) the longer you feel full and the more energy you have.

Sugars

Sugars, which fall underneath the carbohydrate umbrella are varying compositions of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, they are used in many foods and come naturally in a lot of ingredients, fresh fruit is high in sugar as is a chocolate bar. When thinking about sugars it is important to understand what food is acceptable and which ones are more likely to damage your diet.

They can be found in breads, pastas, cakes and cookies, they can even be found in vegetables but in much smaller quantities. It is the break down of sugar in the body that gives us the release of energy when we do physical activities. Too much sugar, for too little exercise is what causes the majority of weight gain.

Learn more on added sugar...