Choosing Healthy Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates supply energy to the body in the form of sugars and starches. This article will help you understand how to use carbohydrates in your well-balanced diet.

Like gasoline is to a car engine, carbohydrates supply the body with fuel. There are two different types of carbohydrates: sugars (glucose or dextrose) and starches. Sugars are referred to as “simple carbohydrates” because the body digests them extremely easily and quickly. These simple carbohydrates have a sweet taste and are not only found in cookies and sweets, but in fruits as well.

Complex carbohydrates are derived from starch and are harder to digest. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as bread, noodles, rice and some vegetables. There are two types of complex carbohydrates: those with a high fiber content and those with a low fiber content. High-fiber, complex carbohydrates are not digestible, because we do not have the enzyme to do the job. Cows have that enzyme; that is why they can get calories out of grass, and we can’t. High-fiber (high-cellulose) vegetable foods are the healthiest choices for human nutrition, and consumption of these foods is associated with lowered incidences of hypertension, cancer, arthritis and diabetes. Examples of these complex carbohydrates are lettuce and broccoli. Examples of low-fiber, complex carbohydrates are banana, tomato, squash, cereals and grains, (such as rice, bread and pasta) and potatoes.

The purpose of carbohydrates is to fuel the cells in the body with energy. When a carbohydrate is consumed, the body breaks the carbohydrate down into two different chemical reactions. Glucose is produced for immediate energy and is quickly absorbed from the digestive system to the blood stream. The body only needs a limited amount of glucose, so what is left over is stored in the muscles and liver. Any abundance of glucose that is not stored in the muscles or the liver, glycogen, is saved as fat. During exercise, the excess glucose is released into the body as needed.

The healthiest source of sugar is complex carbs found in high-fiber vegetables; nevertheless, it is perfectly fine to supplement your diet with simple sugars found in whole fruits in moderation. Consume the fruits rather than juicing and drinking them. Consuming the whole fruit provides natural fiber, which aids in the correct absorption of carbohydrates. If you must have juice, dilute it with twice the required quantity of water to get the flavor without exceeding the acceptable daily intake of simple sugars.

Excess carbohydrates also cause generalized vascular disease. A high-carbohydrates diet which is has been popular, causes the pancreas to produce large amounts of insulin, and if this happens for many years in a genetically predisposed person, Insulin receptors grow resistant to insulin throughout the body. Because insulin’s function is to transport glucose into cells, persistent hyperglycemia, often known as “high blood sugar,” occurs. A significant amount of this sugar is stored as fat, which contributes to obesity. Excess insulin also causes hypertension and helps initiate the sequence of events in the arterial wall, which can lead to heart disease.

Carbohydrates are important to proper nutrition, and should be utilized in your well-balanced diet to maintain the energy necessary to get the job done.