When you hear the word carbohydrates, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it essential? Or unnecessary? Generally, a lot of people in this day and age look at carbohydrates as something they will make them gain weight or even become fat. This is because carbohydrates usually come from sugar, fibre or starch-based foods.
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However, just because carbs can make you gain weight, do not underestimate how important they are for the body. Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients the body can obtain its energy or calories from.
Along with fat and protein, they will need carbs for it to function properly and maintain good health. With that being said, the key to using carbohydrates to your bodies advantage is completely through eating in moderation, going for healthier food options and exercising regularly.
Simple VS Complex Carbohydrates
The difference between these two carbohydrates is extremely important to understand as they will affect how much you can eat, and what you should be eating.
- Simple carbohydrates contain just one or two sugars, including fructose and galactose. These sources of carbohydrates are usually refined and are considered empty calories as they do not provide other nutritional benefits and can easily lead to weight gain. Food sources with simple carbs are sweet foods, fizzy drinks, table salt, and syrups.
- Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars and take longer for the body to break down. They are often referred to as starchy foods and include beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, parsnips, whole-grain bread and cereals. Complex carbohydrates are important as they are a slower releasing in energy, so they keep you running throughout the day, and these food sources provide other essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals for the body.
Benefits of Getting Enough Carbohydrates
- Your Bodies main source of energy – Carbohydrates are your bodies main source of energy and are important for all of its functioning. Carbohydrates provide energy to the brain, muscles, joints, kidneys, lungs, your heart, and everything else in between. When the recommended intake of carbohydrates in the diet aren’t being met, you may feel weak, fatigued, constipated as well as nausea.
- Improved digestion – Carbohydrates can help to aid and improve your digestive system. The insoluble fibre from carbohydrates that pass through the colon helps bulk the stool. Soluble and insoluble fibre work together to maintain healthy intestinal functioning by affecting the consistency of the stool. Consistent consumption of fibre also helps to regulate blood sugar levels and can lower blood pressure.
- Improved Brain functioning – The brain needs the energy to function well. This means getting enough carbohydrates is essential if you want it to be firing on all cylinders. The brains main energy source is glucose. If it does not come from food, the body will naturally break down stored glycogen and use it instead. So if you do cut your carbohydrate intake, the brain will still function fine. But having moderate and consistent intake will ensure the body does not start feeding off itself.
- Improved athletic performance – Just like the other two macronutrients, carbohydrates have an important part to play in terms of physical activity. Carbohydrates provide energy to all parts of the body and can give you the extra boost of endurance and strength when you need it. Fat and protein can also give you the extra energy you need, but not as much or significantly as carbohydrates.
- Helps with Muscle Growth – Ask any body-builder you know, and they will tell you how important carbohydrates are for muscle growth. Consuming enough carbohydrates (especially after training) helps to improve glycogen stores and facilitate the restoration of torn muscle fibres. This helps to make muscles look fuller, stronger, larger and more functional.
Why Moderation is so Important
This is where the difference is in terms of whether carbohydrates are good or bad for the health. A moderate intake of carbohydrates is essential in using it to your advantage. How much carbs you consume will depend on multiple variables.
How physically active you are, the size of your body, health conditions as well as age and gender will ultimately determine what a good amount of carbohydrates are for you.
The universally recommended intake of carbs for an average healthy person entails that 45%-60% of your dietary intake should be carbohydrates. If you are looking to lose or gain weight, or need to adapt it to reach your health goals, this amount can be adapted.
If you are trying to lose or gain weight, trying to manage certain health conditions through the food you eat, it’s always a good idea to speak with your medical practitioner beforehand. There are so many diets available, but only a few are suitable for you. Speaking with a professional medical practitioner is the first thing you should do.
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