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What are Carbohydrates?

Your diet plays a crucial part of your health journey. Whether you are aiming to lose weight, put on some muscle or just become more health conscious, you are bombarded with advice on work outs, meal planning and recipes. Does this lead guarantee sustainability? I would argue to sustain the changes you are making it is vital to understand nutrition and fitness, at a basic level at least. Kick starting a short series is today’s blog post on understanding what are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are often the focal point of diets, particularly those geared towards fat loss. There are many misconceptions about carbohydrates due to the years of bashing they have gotten in the media. First and foremost, remove this idea from that your mind that carbohydrates are bad. Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms and the release energy in different ways. Let’s take a closer look at these:

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a source of energy for the body – a main source. They are broken down into glucose, a molecule used by each cell in the body to make energy. When we talk about sugar levels, it is the level of glucose in the blood that we are referring to. There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. What determines which group a carbohydrate goes into is essentially on how many building blocks of sugar they have. Simple lego alone or many pieces of lego put together to form a bigger block

 

Simple carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are those made up of one or two building blocks, in the form of glucose, sucrose and fructose.  Foods such as fruit, honey, milk and milk products are simple carbohydrates. Refined, processed products such as sweets, cakes and biscuits  also contain simple carbohydrates. This type of carbohydrate is quickly broken down in the body because of the simple structure. A quick increase in blood sugar levels is seen as energy is released in a burst. Unfortunately, this quick high in energy levels will result in a quick decline, leaving a person feeling tired and irritable as well as craving more food.

The fibre content in the natural sources of simple carbohydrates helps to control the speed at which the sugar is absorbed, making the swing in energy levels less intense. These are excellent natural options however should also be eaten in moderation.

 

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are the bigger pieces of lego that have many building blocks i.e. sugar units grouped together. This means it takes longer to break down the carbohydrate allowing for a steady release of energy over a longer period of time. The problem of sugar levels swinging up and down is not the case with complex carbohydrates. In addition, these carbohydrates are packed full of essential nutritents and minerals, as well as containing fibre, fat and protein making them a much wiser choice of food. Wholegrain based products, oats, vegetables, legumes are just some examples of complex carbohydrates.

 

Fibre

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate however it is non digestible which means it pretty much passes through the digestive tract without providing energy. So, what is the point of it and why is it good for us? There are two types of fibre but without getting too complex, part of what they do is bulk up stool to allow improved movement and absob water from the gut to make them softer, allowing the faeces to pass easily. Not only is fibre essential for the bowels, a role is played in lowering blood cholesterol, helping to control blood sugar levels and combat cardiovascular disease. Adding food that is fibrous into your meal, you will find you feel fuller for longer, aiding to maintain or even lose weight.

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