What you need to know about carbs
There are so many low carb diets around…maybe some clarification of exactly what carbohydrates are and why we NEED them is a good idea.
Every cell in your body uses carbohydrates for energy and your brain ONLY uses carbohydrates. Making sure your brain is happy is pretty important. The problem is that not all carbohydrates are created equal. A lot of the carbohydrates people feed themselves are just empty calories with little or no nutritional value, so it is important to understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Whether the carbohydrate is classified as ‘simple’ or ‘complex’ depends on its chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is digested and absorbed. Simple carbohydrates have one or two sugars. Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars.
Your cells will not be happy if they are fed on a diet of refined/simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs (or simple sugars) are absorbed into your blood very quickly and they are often teamed with loads of fat and contain little or no vitamins or other nutrients.
The other problem with simple carbs is that they have a bad habit of leading to cravings and compulsive eating because they cause huge swings in blood sugar levels. They can also make you a bit temperamental too.
On the other hand, simple carbs can be useful after an intense workout because your muscles will be depleted of glycogen. The best way to get your simple carbs in this case is from food containing naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, e.g.:
- milk and milk products
examples of simple carbs to avoid:
- refined grains like white bread and white rice
- processed foods such as cake, biscuits and chips
- soft drinks
- table sugar
- fruit juice
These are the carbs we want (and need). Complex carbohydrates take longer to be digested and usually contain lots of vitamins, fibre and other nutrients. They help stabilise blood sugar and keep your energy levels on an even keel. Your appetite is also stays in check longer after eating.
Good sources of complex carbohydrates include:
- Whole grain bread
- Brown rice
- Bran cereal
- Whole wheat pasta
- Sweet potato
In their natural form complex carbs contribute to long-term good health, appetite control and sustained energy levels.
Carbohydrates become glucose when digested. Glucose is transported to the body’s cells via the bloodstream and is converted into energy. The pancreas secretes insulin to control the amount of glucose taken in by the cells. If there is any excess glucose it’s converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and/or in fat around the body.
When your cells need more energy the pancreas secretes glucagon and converts the glycogen back into glucose. The glucose is then released back into the bloodstream for the body to use.
So make sure you’re getting the right kind of carbs in your diet!
Wishing you good health always.