Carbohydrates are present as the main source of energy in our diet. They are the sugars, starches and fibre found in fruits, vegetables, grains and milk products. Carbohydrates are often classified as simple or complex on the basis of their chemical makeup and the way the body uses them for energy.
Simple carbohydrates are the basic sugars that are readily available to the body and are easy to digest.They are found naturally in milk and fruits and refined or processed sugars added in baking , soft drinks and candies.
Complex carbohydrates are the carbohydrates which are found in whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, pulses and legumes . They require a series of chemical reactions to be digested and absorbed by the body.
Fibre on the other hand is not digested by the body but are essential carbohydrates as it gives the feeling of fullness, aids in digestion by regulating bowel movement and provides body with bacteria that helps to lower bad cholesterol in blood.
The daily carbohydrates intake should be 45-65% of your total calories. 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 kcal of energy.
Functions of carbohydrates
carbohydrates is needed to provide energy to the body that is needed to perform various functions within the body. Apart from providing energy other functions include
- It provides variety and colour to your diet .
- Spares protein for growth and regeneration of tissues.
- Helps in breaking up of fats.
- Provides with fibre which helps in digestion and regulation of bowel movement.
- It is the instant source of energy for the body.
Glycemic index is general classification of carbohydrates in accordance with how they affect blood sugar levels.
Good and bad carbohydrates
Some carbohydrates are good for health while others can lead to poor nutrition , obesity and tooth decay , so the choice of carbohydrates is very important in order to get maximum benefits from it. For example A can of soft drink provides you with almost 140-160 kcal of only simple sugar and two slice of whole grain bread or one small chapatti provides you with same number of calories along with feeling of fullness, fibre, vitamin B, and minerals. For this reason carbohydrates are generally classified as good and bad carbohydrates.
Good carbohydrates are mostly the complex carbohydrates and are high in fibre it takes time to breakdown into glucose. It is essential to get most of your calories of carbohydrates from these carbohydrates.
Bad carbohydrates on the other hand are quickly converted into glucose and causes blood sugar to rise. It is usually best to avoid these carbohydrates as much as possible and use them occasionally as a treat.
Tips to evaluate good and bad carbohydrates
- Are low or moderate in simple sugars
- Rich in fibre
- Low in saturated fats
- Low in sodium
- Low in refined sugar and grains
- Are high in calories and refined sugars
- Low in fibre
- High in refined grains
- High in saturated fats
- High in sodium
Examples of good carbohydrates
- Fruits and vegetables are good source of carbohydrates and are packed with vitamins and minerals. It is essential to add up to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
- Pulses are high in fibre , proteins and carbohydrates and are low in fats. It decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Whole grain cereals such as whole wheat chapatti, bread, oatmeals, corns are rich in fibre,vitamins and minerals. They have low glycemic index which helps to keep blood sugar level normal.
- Unsweetened dairy provides you with lactose the sole carbohydrate source from animals.
Examples of bad carbohydrates
- Fruits high in sugar such as candies, soft drinks, sweetened dairy, ice creams and desserts.
- Refined grains such as white rice and breads because during processing the outer layer which is composed of fibre and Vitamin B is removed . Also they have high glycemic index which results in rise in blood sugar levels.
- Commercially processed food in which sugar and refined carbohydrates are used such as pastries, cakes, patties e.t.c
Carbohydrates are essential part of heathy diet. A proper choice is necessary. Focus on fresh fruits , vegetables and whole grains and avoid desserts , sugars , soft drinks, and processed food foods rich in sugars