Carbohydrates – Fuel For Your Bodies
Carbohydrates are molecules made up of sugar units. Carbohydrates should form the greatest part of our diet (at least half of our daily total calorie intake). To keep us at peak performance, full of life and able to concentrate well, we need energy. Our body most easily makes use of the energy obtained from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate is a readily accessible source of energy.You should get most of the energy from complex carbohydrates (eg starch) and less from sugars. Sources of Carbohydrate are rice, noodles, pasta, bread, chapatti, dosa, cereal, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes etc.
Not all carbohydrates are the same. Carbohydrates include simple sugars, complex sugars as well as dietary fibre.
Carbohydrates– The Subtle Differences
We appreciate some carbohydrates for their sweet taste. They are found in cereals, fruit and sweets such as chocolates. Our preference for sweet foods is something we are born with. Infants already become familiar with the slightly sweet taste of their mother’s milk. But other carbohydrates have a neutral flavour. We eat them in the form of pasta, rice and other cereals potatoes etc. Dietary fibre, as found in whole grain products, vegetables and fruits, also belongs to the family of carbohydrates. Since these kinds of carbohydrates each have a different structure, they also differ in the speed through which they provide energy.
Carbohydrates For Quick Energy: Sugars
The smallest building blocks for carbohydrates are called simple sugars (or monosaccharides). They rapidly reach the bloodstream from our digestive tract and enter our body cells. There, they can be used immediately as a source of energy. Both double sugars (disaccharides) and simple sugars, such as glucose (grape sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) have a sweet taste. They are found in sweet foods, such as honey, fruit and fruit juices, as well as in sweets and table sugar. When the job is to rapidly replenish empty energy stores and prevent lapses in performance, simple and double sugars can serve us well. For this reason, athletes like to reach for glucose and energy bars during competitions.
Energy That Leaves You Feeling Full Longer
Foods that help maintain a constant blood sugar level are a good source of endurance and provide a sense of satisfaction that lasts for a long time. Whole grain products, legumes and vegetables have an especially favourable effect. This is because these foods contain what are known as complex sugars or polysaccharides, which our bodies must first break down before they can be absorbed and reach the bloodstream. In addition, whole grain foods, vegetables and many varieties of fruit have a low Glycaemic Index (GI). The glycaemic index evaluates carbohydrate-containing foods according to their impact on raising the blood sugar level; the lower the GI, the more favourable the effect of the food on the blood sugar level.
Energy That Can’t Be Cracked
Our bodies are basically unable to metabolise dietary fibre. Despite this, or more precisely, because of this, these foods are very valuable for maintaining our health. They help keep our blood sugar and cholesterol levels in balance and maintain normal digestion. This is good for maintaining healthy body weight, the heart and circulation. If you eat whole grain products, vegetables and fruit every day, you will be supplied with all the dietary fibre you need – along with other carbohydrates, which will be also be provided at the same time.
Complex Carbohydrates: Fiber - bran, whole-grain cereals like oats, bajra, jowar, ragi, etc, whole pulses, raw vegetables and fruits (especially with skins) and nuts.
Starch - Cereals like bread, pasta, rice (made of multi-grain flour or wheat flour) and vegetables like potatoes
Simple Carbohydrates: Refined cereals like refined flour (maida) and its products, soft drinks, table sugar, fruit juices, honey and other sweets
Whenever possible, choose to eat whole grain or whole meal food.
The Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains and foods made from them contain the entire grain seed: the bran, the endosperm and the germ. Whole grains are a good source of fibre, B vitamins, iron and antioxidants. Studies show that regular consumption of whole grains help to reduce the risk for coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer. Below are ways to boost your whole grains intake:
- Use more wholewheat products in the form of wholewheat bread/multi-grain bread, wheat based or multi-grain pasta, brown rice and whole grain cereals
- Have a serving of whole grain breakfast cereals in the morning
- Add oats to breakfast, cookies and other desserts
- Use multi-grain flour/flour with added bran for rotis/paranthas and avoid refined flour and its products
- Use high fibre vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower,sprouts and fruits such as apples, pears and black currants. Dried fruits contain particularly large amounts of fibre and are a good snack