Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient found in many foods and beverages. Most carbohydrates are naturally occurring in plant-based foods, such as grains. Food manufacturers also add carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of starch or added sugar. The most basic carbohydrate is a sugar molecule, which joins together one or two units of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Other carbohydrates contain three or more units of the carbon-hydrogen-oxygen trio.
Types of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates and Digestion
The fast releasing (simple) carbohydrates include;
Simple Carbohydrates (Fast releasing carbohydrates)
Complex carbohydrates (Slow releasing)
So how do we know what is fast or slow releasing foods?
1. If your daily food has more than 50 GL points you are likely to gain weight, depending on build and level of exercise
2. If your food has an average of 50 GL points you will maintain your weight and 3. If you want to loose weight you should stay a bit below 50 Gl points a day depending on your level of exercise.
Some examples of GL values for food
Carbohydrates and Health
Your body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. Sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They are then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they are known as blood sugar (glucose). From there, the glucose enters your body's cells with the help of insulin. Some of this glucose is used by your body for energy, fueling all of your activities, whether it is going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.
Protecting against disease
Some evidence shows that whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fiber may also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health.
Choosing Carbohydrates wisely
- Emphasize fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Aim for whole fresh, and raw fruits and vegetables without added sugar. They are better options than are fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have more calories. Also, whole fruits and vegetables add fiber, water and bulk, and help you feel fuller on fewer calories.
- Choose whole grains. All types of grains are good sources of carbohydrates. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals and naturally low in fat. But whole grains are healthier choices than are refined grains. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. Refined grains go through a process that strips out certain parts of the grain - along with some of the nutrients and fiber.
- Stick to low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Choose the low-fat versions, though, to help limit calories and saturated fat. And beware of dairy products that have added sugar.
- Do not forget beans and legumes. Legumes - beans, peas and lentils - are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also have beneficial fats, and soluble and insoluble fiber. Because they are a good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Limit added sugars. Added sugar probably is not harmful in small amounts. But there's no health advantage to consuming any amount of added sugar. In fact, too much added sugar, and in some cases naturally occurring sugar, can lead to such health problems as tooth decay, poor nutrition and weight gain.
Supplied by: Dr Alice Ojwang-Ndong January 2012
Information Source Links
- Holford, Patrich (2007): New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Piatkus books www.piatcus.co.uk , An imprint of Little, Brown book group, 100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y ODY. ISBN No: 978-0-7499-2552-9
- Carbohydrates. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov Accessed. Jan. 11, (2011).
- The Encyclopedia of Foods: A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. San Diego, California: Academic Press; (2002).