We need to have a balanced diet and that includes carbohydrates which is one of the main macro nutrients. Half of our daily recommended food intake is supposed to come from carbohydrates, but are they good for us and do they cause Obesity or Type ll diabetes?
These are just some questions and the complexities surrounding foods high in carbohydrates and if we should eat them.
Let me try to unravel this complexed dietary subject and help you to make the right nutrition choice.
What is a Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are key components in the diet comprising Sugars, Starches and Fibre.
In general, sugars and starches provide half of our daily energy that we require and the main function of dietary fibre is to help our digestive system stay healthy.
1 gram Carbohydrate = 4 kcal
The bodies tissues require a constant supply of glucose which is used as a fuel. The main source of glucose is dietary carbohydrate, but it can also be synthesized from protein. Carbohydrates can also be stored as fat and used for energy later.
Carbohydrates can be split into 4 different groups and their molecular structure are made up of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen components.
Simple carbohydrate includes sugars such as glucose, galactose and fructose. Monosaccharides are used to produce and store energy and are usually colourless, water-soluble crystalline solids.
These sugars are formed when two monosaccharides form together with the removal of one molecule of water.
Sucrose (glucose & fructose)
Lactose (glucose & galactose)
Maltose (2 x molecules of glucose)
They are generally chains of around 3 to 10 carbon molecules. Humans do not have enzymes that digest oligosaccharides so they pass through the digestive tract to be metabolized by the gut bacteria.
Made up many monosaccharide molecules joined together and are mainly glucose.
Starch, Glycogen – The form in which glucose is stored in the body
Cellulose, Beta Glucan and Pectin – Components classed as dietary fibre
What Are Dietary Carbohydrates?
Intrinsic Sugars – Incorporated into the cellular structure of foods e.g Sugars in whole fruits and vegetables.
Extrinsic Sugars – Are not bound into their cellular structure e.g Lactose (milk sugar) in dairy products, Honey, Fruit Juices, Table Sugar and Confectionery
2. Complex Carbohydrates
Starch – Found in potatoes, bread, rice and pasta
Dietary Fibre – Plant derived foods that cannot be completely broken down by digestive enzymes. Dietary fibre consists of non-starch polysaccharides and other plant components such as cellulose, resistant starch, resistant dextrin’s, pectin’s, beta glucan, and oligosaccharides.
However, too many carbohydrates in our diet can cause certain diseases, tooth decay, obesity and much more.
Carbohydrates & Linked Health Issues
Tooth Decay – Caused by acid producing bacteria and a source of carbohydrate (sugars and starches). The most important way to protect against decay is through brushing your teeth twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste. Avoiding sugary food and drink will also help the risk of tooth decay.
Diabetes – Caused by the body not producing insulin or the insulin it produces is ineffective. The glucose level in the blood becomes too high and therefore harmful. Diet recommendations is to eat more complexed carbohydrates that are low in fat.
Heart Disease – Some forms of complexed carbohydrates such as pectin in fruit and beta glucan in oats (also known as soluble fibre) may slightly reduce the risk of cholesterol in the blood. Regular consumption of whole grain foods has been linked to heart health due to the way it is broken down in our body and absorbed in our large bowel.
Cancer – A high intake of fibre rich foods can lower the risk of bowel cancer.
Obesity – Too much energy in the diet can lead to weight gain irrespective of the source of food it comes from. Fibre rich foods are recommended in weight reducing diets. They contain less energy than foods with a high fat content and give a feeling of fullness and satiety.
Is this why certain people like me decide to take starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars out of their diets and get their energy from other food sources or are there such things as good versus bad carbohydrates?
Whole Carbohydrates are unrefined and contain the fibre naturally found in the food.
Foods include Vegetables, Whole Fruit, Legumes, Potatoes, Whole Grains. These foods are generally healthy for us.
Important in our diet and generally have a low calorie, density.
They are generally high in lots of nutrients needed to keep our bodies healthy as well as satisfying our hunger.
High in fibre means that we can regulate our blood sugar better as well as our insulin levels and LDL bad cholesterol. This type of food will fill you up so helps with weight loss.
Low in sodium and saturated fat means low cholesterol and trans fats.
Refined Carbohydrates are a true role reversal in that they are so bad for our health and for anyone looking to lose weight.
Foods include Sugar Sweetened Beverages, Fruit Juices, Pastries, White Bread, White Pasta, White Rice, Confectionery and much more.
High in calorie density and high in refined added sugars. High in refined grains such as white flour.
Nutrient empty and low in fibre.
Most of these foods are high in sodium and saturated fat and most often are high in trans fats and cholesterol.
There has been a lot of scientific research around the type of food we eat and the harm we are doing to our own bodies.
Both the control of weight and the link to certain health conditions such as Cancers, Diabetes, and heart disease to name a few can all be linked to our diet.
Benefits of a Low Carbohydrate Diet
This type of diet limits carbohydrates and allows you to eat an increased amount of protein and fat.
Over 23 studies have shown that eating a low carbohydrate diet is much more effective than a low-fat diet which used to be recommended in the past.
Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to have greater results for weight loss and leads to greater improvements in health due to lower cholesterol, lowered blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure.
People who have Type ll Diabetes, suffer with obesity or have metabolic syndrome eating a low carbohydrate diets can be lifesaving with great benefits.
I do not believe that there is an optimal carbohydrate intake, and this should be dictated by the individual and factors such as age, gender, health, physical activity, food culture and individual preference.
For instant if you are looking to lose weight, suffer from diabetes or heart issues then reducing carbohydrates will probably be life beneficial for you. I would stick to only eating whole good carbohydrates.
However, if you are naturally lean and physically active then you may function better having more carbohydrates in your diet.
Therefore, it is important for both the way we look both inside and outside to ensure we eat good, clean wholesome food rich in nutrients.
I have chosen to eat a paleolithic diet which is a natural and simplified way of eating that is nutrient rich and free from processed foods and bad carbohydrates. This way of eating for me includes lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and I stay away from anything starchy and processed which might cause disease or inflammation. This is a way of life that suits my personal needs.
Stay away from processed food which is usually nutrient poor but high in calories is my best advice irrelevant of what healthy eating lifestyle you choose.
Why would you not want to give your body what it needs to look good and feel amazing?
Please let me know what you think or how I can help further in the comments below.
Very Good! I love helpful advice as to the best way to eat. Not only is your advice based in scientific fact, your informational platform is clear, concise and well laid out.
I enjoyed your specific definitions as to the composition of sugars etc. Also, your pictures and layout are attractive.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you Amy,
I really appreciate your comments and pleased you thought my advice was good.
I love all the information that you provided. It provides me with a more complete understanding. However, I thought legumes , potatoes, and whole grains were bad for you. I have read that quinoa is good as an alternative to legumes.
I agree that everyone one is different and depending your health goals. As long as you stay away from processed foods and sugars.
Thank you for your comments especially about Legumes, Potatoes and Whole Grains. The answer is more to do with the type of eating plan you are doing. I explained that I eat a Paleo Diet so the foods you mentioned I do not eat. I will do another blog on this as it is a totally other subject.
Basically in this article I wanted people to understand a more general way of healthy eating which is my recommendations as a stepping stone.
Great article. I for the most part I have always had good intentions to follow a healthy diet, but I have a weakness towards giving into food’s that are quick and easy like processed meat’s and white bread. Having been into weight training for a quite a while, I have a tendency to keep my protein intake higher for muscle and keep the carbohydrate intake lower. I also try to keep my carb intake lower because I have a risk for diabetes.
Thanks for sharing this great information.
Thank you for sharing your comments as I believe this will really help others in a similar situation. My big NO NO is processed foods and as you mentioned processed meats and white bread are the worst.
As I continue to learn more about the way our bodies use different parts of foods for different needs, I realize that bodies change in time. What worked for me in my late teens and early 20’s no longer produces the results I need to look and feel good. Trying to get a good diet that is low in bad fats and bad carbs to get back to the desirable weight, as well as help with the issues of the immune system? This just adds an additional layer of knowledge that I don’t have to the list of what I need to do.
I found that Carbs had been farther reduced into 4 smaller batches that need to be considered when working with dietary changes for better health and lifestyle. My lack of attention to my personal health and the shock that I wouldn’t stay in my mid-twenties forever has produced the need for a bit of work on my part to make sure I understand what I can do to help myself.
The knowledge you have shared will be a big stepping stone to getting my eating back on track. I will also be farther along understanding why I need more of some things and less of others. Thank you for your help.
Thank you Sami,
I am so pleased that I could help and if you have any further questions I am happy to answer for you.
The reason why I wrote this article is because it can be such a mind field for something that should be so easy. I hope that I can help so many others like yourself.
Hello dear,, wow what wonderful content you have here, I was actually doing some research online when I saw these post, thanks for sharing such exclusive concise information with us, your website is plain and simple very easy to understand and navigate, thanks for the info I’ll surely do some recommendations
Thank you ,
I am so pleased that you found my article informative and that my website is easy to use.
It means a lot thank you
Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts are indeed invaluable. The body looks at carbohydrates as fuel, so one of the main functions of carbohydrates is supplying energy to the body. Nevertheless, I have been having this notion that too much carbohydrates could lead to kwashiorkor are true is this assumption. Will be pleased to hear from you, warm regards
Thank you so much for your comments and I am pleased to help.
Kwashiorkor is a nutritional disease mainly found in the under developed countries where food education is poor. It mainly occurs because the body is lacking in proteins and nutrients. This would mean the balance of food and water in many cases is poor.
Thank you so much and a great question.