Good question!

Well, firstly to explain… what is a carbohydrate?

They are an ideal source of energy for the body. This is because they can be converted more readily into glucose, the form of sugar that’s transported and used by the body in various ways.


Even so, a diet too high in carbohydrates can upset the delicate balance of your body’s blood sugar level, resulting in fluctuations in energy and mood which leave you feeling irritated and tired.

It is better to balance your intake of carbohydrates with proteins.

The way it works it this.

All carbohydrates form glucose when digested and is transported around the body by the blood and taken into the cells where it is converted into energy.

The pancreas gland in your abdomen secretes the hormone insulin, which controls the amount of glucose in your cells.

If you have any excess glucose it is converted into something called glycogen. This is stored in the liver or in fat around the body.

When your body needs more energy, a second hormone called glucagon is secreted by the pancreas. This converts the glycogen back into glucose, which is then released into your bloodstream for your cells to use.

This means that the body’s glucose (sugar) metabolism is a cycle of glucose, insulin and glucagon reactions.

The slower the release of glucose and hormones, the more stable and sustainable the energy levels of the body.

The more refined the carbohydrate, the faster the glucose is released into your blood. This can cause peaks and drops in your blood sugar level and less stable energy levels in the body.

Complex carbohydrates provide a slower and more sustained release of energy than simple carbohydrates.

In their natural form they contribute to long-term good health, appetite control and sustained energy levels.

There are two types of carbohydrates and these are complex and simple.

Complex carbohydrates are often referred to as starch or starchy foods.

They are found naturally in some foods and also refined in processed foods.

Complex carbohydrates as natural starches are found in bananas, barley, beans, brown rice, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oats, parsnips, potatoes, root vegetables, sweet corn, wholegrain cereals, wholemeal breads and cereals, wholemeal flour and pasta, and yams.

Complex carbohydrates as refined starches are found in biscuits, pastries and cakes, pizzas, sugary processed breakfast cereals, white bread, white pasta and white rice.

Simple carbohydrates exist in either a natural or refined form.

Natural sugars are found in fruit and vegetables.

However the refined type come in foods like biscuits, cakes and pastries, honey and jams, jellies, brown and white sugar, chocolate, all sorts of processed foods and sauces, soft drinks, sweets, and snack bars.

It’s the refined white sugar that gives you the high and the lows and if your diet consists of lots of cakes and biscuits and anything that has added sugar in it you will become addicted to it. Over a period of time you will probably gain weight and it will do nothing for your teeth either.

what are the two types of carbohydrates2

So you can see that if your diet is rich in good complex carbs and also in fruits you’ll be eating well and healthily. The upside being there will be no mood or energy swings either.

As always eating natural foods will keep you healthy while processed foods will not,

To be healthy it is thought that you ought to get half your energy needs from carbohydrates, with at least one third of your daily intake of food being starchy carbohydrates.

Due to the fact that not all carbohydrates are the same refined sugars should make up only 11 per cent of your daily diet. For adults, the average intake of refined sugars is slightly higher than this recommended level, with men the worst offenders

The average child’s intake is 16 per cent, with the main culprits being fizzy drinks and confectionery.

Eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain, regardless of what foods you get your energy from. Yet while low carb diets have had much publicity, gram for gram carbohydrates contain less calories than fat, protein and alcohol:

1gram of carbohydrate contains 3.75 calories.1gram of protein contains 4 calories. 1gram of fat contains 9 calories. And 1gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.

Sugar and starch are found in both healthy and ‘unhealthy’ foods, so the type of carbohydrates you eat is important for your wellbeing.

Many foods high in sugar (cakes, pastries, chocolate) are also high in fat or prepared with fat (chips, roast potatoes, sandwiches).

So having starchy foods, such as wholegrain bread, pasta etc, which are high in fiber, which is essential for digestive health and helps control appetite so you don’t feel hungry are obviously the better choice.

The ideal way of eating should be a balance of carbohydrates and protein. As a guide your plate should contain twice as many carbs as protein

You should base each of your meals on a complex carbohydrate, such as potato, wholemeal bread or brown rice, and include vegetables.

Finish the meal with fruit, and this should ensure you get a balance of complex and simple carbohydrates.

Use high fiber wholegrain cereals as part of your breakfast, and use wholemeal bread for your toast.

For lunch, choose lean protein, such as fish or chicken, with only a small amount of carbohydrate to get you through the afternoon.

Cut down on the amount of refined white flour products in your diet, such as white bread, pizza and white pasta and rice.

The refining process produces simple carbohydrates and many vitamins and minerals are lost.

Fruit is naturally high in sugar, which means so are fruit juices and smoothies. In liquid form these sugars can damage your teeth.

So although these drinks count towards your five a day and contain fiber, vitamins and minerals in order to avoid tooth decay, it’s best to drink them with a meal.

And that’s it, choose wisely from both simple and complex carbohydrates and you will be healthy and have energy.

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
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