WHAT IS A CARBOHYDRATE?
Most people know carbohydrates as bread, pasta, rice and sugary foods and this is absolutely true but let's take a more in-depth look into a carbohydrate.
A carbohydrate is a short or long chain of sugar molecules (think beads on a string). A short chain of 1-2 molecules is classified as a sugar, such as lactose, maltose and sucrose and short chains give quick bursts of energy as their short-chain can be broken down into single molecules or single units of sugars very quickly. Long chains are known as starch carbohydrates like bread, potatoes and rice, can contain between 10 and several hundred molecules and give more sustained energy as it takes longer for the body to break down the long-chain into single molecules of sugar. At the end of the day, believe it or not, all carbohydrates are destined to be sugar molecules!
THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF CARBOHYDRATES – COMPLEX & SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES
Simple Carbohydrates (short chains) include cakes, pastries, chocolate, honey, jams, sweets, pizza, soda drinks and brown and white sugar cane. Simple carbohydrates do not generally have any added health benefits such as fibre, vitamins or minerals.
Complex Carbohydrates (long chains) include whole grains, wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Simple Carbohydrates - Eat Less!
Complex Carbohydrates - Eat More!
You can see from the graph below that all carbohydrates after their breakdown process, need to become sugar before they enter into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are just simply too big to cross the walls of the intestines and they wouldn't be able to be used by the body as a fuel source. You can also note the suffix 'ose' is common among sugars and when reading nutrition labels if it ends with an 'ose' it's most likely a sugar!
THE BODY'S SOURCE OF FUEL:
The body's primary fuel source is glucose. Glucose is used to provide your body and brain with energy. Your body converts almost everything you eat into glucose (you can even convert protein into glucose) and for some foods, the conversion to glucose is done rapidly such as sugars and other high GI foods, for other foods it can take a little extra processing time such as fruits, vegetables and other low GI foods. Depending on how much you eat and how quickly your food can be converted to glucose, it will affect how much glucose is let out into the bloodstream at any given time. It can be released rapidly in a quick burst of energy such as a sugar hit or it can be released slowly for a sustained stream of energy such as whole grains and protein.
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation and are put to blame for the majority of the nation's weight gain issues. Carbohydrates should consume approximately 45-60% of your daily intake of calories but sometimes 80% or more of carbohydrates are consumed and this is the cause of weight gain. Your choice of carbohydrates are also to blame such as choosing soft drinks and chocolate bars instead of vegetables and grains.
TOP SOURCES OF CARBOHYDRATES:
•Fruits & Vegetables
•Whole grain oats
•Muesli & granola
•Whole grain cereals
•Whole grain bread
•Egg, hokkien or rice noodles
•Potato, sweet potato
Moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates (good carbohydrates) consumed at regular intervals throughout the day (4-5 meals per day) can have powerful effects on your blood sugar and blood pressure levels as well as provide sustained energy throughout the day without all the dips and peaks. Managing your intake of carbohydrates also provides effective results on weight loss and weight maintenance. Carbohydrates should contain approximately 45-60% of your daily intake of calories and these calories should be utilised on foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Always remember to enjoy your foods!
Head Trainer & Nutritionist