If you’re someone who is just starting to learn about nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet, one of the essential nutrients you should be familiar with is carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that provide energy to our bodies, along with proteins and fats, and they are extremely necessary for our overall health and wellbeing.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a type of nutrient that our bodies use as fuel to provide us with energy. They are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules and are found in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.
Carbohydrates can be classified into two categories - simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugar molecules and are often found in foods such as sweets, pastries, and soft drinks. These carbohydrates are easily broken down by our bodies, leading to a quick release of energy. However, they can also cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels, leading to an energy crash shortly after, and when it comes to nutritional value, there isn’t much. When we are looking at a balanced, nutritious diet, keeping these to a minimum is likely your best bet (note: it doesn’t mean you can never have them, moderation is key, just like everything!).
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are made up of many sugar molecules and are found in foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These carbohydrates take longer to break down in the body, providing a more sustained release of energy. When it comes to nutritional value, these are much more nutritious!
However, these complex carbohydrates typically get lumped together with the simple carbohydrates leaving people confused about carbs, thinking they should avoid them altogether.
We NEED carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet. Our brain uses the sugar for energy and our digestive system uses the fiber for gut health.