Carbohydrates – What Are These Good For Anyway?

Carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet and many nutritionists recommend that between 40 and 60% of your food intake should be carbs. Carbs give you energy and fuel. You body converts these carbs into glucose or ‘blood sugar’ to give you energy. If you follow a diet which is low in carbs, you will probably feel lethargic because your body is not producing the energy you need. Starch and sugars are two of the main carb groups. Natural sugars include lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). Many carb sources also contain a lot of fat. Starches contain carbs as well as natural sugars. Basic starchy carbs are bread, potatoes, rice and such. Complex carbohydrates include yams and oats and are generally preferable than basic carbs.

Carbs and Energy

If you eat more carbs than you burn off, the excess is stored as body fat. This is especially true for carbs which are processed starches or simple sugars because they enter the blood stream quickly to give you a rapid rise in energy levels. Unless you need that energy there and then, the carbs will be stored as fat. These types of carbs are best avoided unless you are extremely active and burn them off as you eat or drink them. They can be stored as fat in less than half an hour! Your body uses energy all the time, even to sleep and breathe. You use a much greater amount when you exercise. When you begin your exercise, your body uses the glucose in your blood for fuel. When there is no glucose left, the carbs stored in your liver and muscles is used. If you do more than about forty minutes of cardiovascular exercise – something that gets your heartbeat up such as jogging, elliptical, fast cycling or similar – only then does your body start to burn its stored fat for fuel.

Carbs in a Healthy Diet

For a healthy diet including carbohydrates, you should eat whole fruits rather than just the juices. Whole fruits contain more nutrients. Remember that complex carbs are usually better for you than simple ones, so sweet potatoes or oats can be beneficial. Eat as few simple carbs or processed starches as possible. If you eat bread or pasta, try not to eat more than 2 servings a day. Wholegrain pasta and bread is better for your body than more heavily processed products. A gram of carbohydrate gives you 4 calories. The reason that a lot of athletes prefer to eat complex carbs (whole grains, oats etc) is that they need a low body fat level. Complex carbs are longer molecule chains. They need more digestion to turn them into glucose so that blood sugar levels stay more level without spikes. If they were to eat simple carbs instead, they would get energy spikes, which is insulin overload, causing them to release a fat storing hormone. All carbohydrates have some effect on your body’s insulin production and your blood sugar levels so it is prudent to watch your intake. Carbs for Diabetics

Diabetics have to watch their carb intake because of how carbs react with blood sugar levels. A diabetic has to check their blood sugar (or glucose) levels regularly because they suffer from insulin resistance, meaning that their blood sugar levels can remain dangerously high if not monitored properly. It is possible to cause organ damage over time by regularly eating high levels of glucose so a diabetic should plan their meals well in order to limit the intake of carbs and manage their glucose levels. It is also important to balance your fats, proteins and other macronutrients in order to work out how much glucose is being produced.