What you need to know about Carbohydrates

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The primary function of carbohydrates is to fuel the body’s metabolic needs. Carbohydrates are made up of fiber, starch and sugar. All carbohydrates are broken down in the body as glucose (except for fiber which is not digested at all). Fiber and starch are complex carbohydrates, while sugar is a simple carbohydrate. How much of each of these is found in a food determines its nutrient quality.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are also called simple sugars. Sugars are found in a variety of natural food sources such as fruit, vegetables and milk, and give food a sweet taste. They also raise blood glucose levels quickly. Many processed foods contain added sugar. People looking to lose weight will benefit from eliminating sources of added sugar from their diet.


Simple Carbohydrates


Examples of food containing simple carbohydrates:

  • White Rice
  • Table sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Syrup
  • Candy
  • Soft drinks
  • Wheat flour
  • Products made with white flour (white bread, cakes, white pasta, cookies and many baked goods)


Complex Carbohydrates

Fiber and starch are the two types of complex carbohydrates. The main sources of dietary fiber include fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains. Fiber is an important part of your diet. It helps keep blood sugar levels from spiking (ideal for people with Type 2 Diabetes), regulate cholesterol levels and promote bowel regularity. They are a good option for weight control.
Whole grains (rather than refined grains), starchy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, and legumes are some of the healthiest complex carbohydrates.

Complex Carbohydrates



Examples of food containing complex carbohydrates:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Chick peas
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, onions and broccoli
  • Beans such soybeans, pinto beans, kidney beans and green beans
  • Other sources such as lentils, peas, soy milk and nuts


While carbohydrates are a source of energy for the body and supply it with key nutrients such as fiber, phytonutrients (which protect your body from bacteria and free radicals) and some vitamins (which support many vital functions) there are a number of negative effects associated with consuming carbohydrates in excess. These include fluctuating energy levels, permanent organ damage, poor appetite control, Type 2 Diabetes and weight gain.

When planning your meals, focus on getting more of your carbohydrates from natural, less processed sources such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy or legumes. This will ensure that you get the most nutritious, fiber-filled foods and help you control blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full and energized. Read food labels to avoid processed and refined foods.

My next blog article discusses the next of these, Protein.

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