What Are Carbohydrates?

Sugars, starches, and fibers are all carbohydrates. Your body uses carbohydrates as a fuel source for energy. If you imagine that your body is car engine, carbohydrates are the fuel that makes the engine run. However, this does not mean that the more carbs you consume the harder and faster you will go. If you take in more carbs than are needed for your body to run smoothly, then you will eventually store the extra carbs as fat.

Carbohydrates are made up of glucose. When the body has more glucose than it needs for immediate energy, the rest is stored as glycogen. When all glycogen levels are at their highest, the excess is then converted and stored as fat. There are two types of carbs; simple and complex.

Simple Carbs

These carbs give you immediate energy. This is because the body very easily breaks them down. However, after the initial energy peak, you may feel sluggish or “come down” from the energy rush. This is because simple carbs are sugars. Anything with sugar, including soda, candy, milk, and fruit drinks, is a simple carb.

List of some natural foods made up of mostly simple carbohydrates. These foods are low in simple sugars and do not promote weight gain.

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Cherry
  • Cranberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Melon
  • Oranges
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

The list below shows some food products that contain a large percentage of simple carbohydrates. Foods containing lots of added table sugar can also be added to the list. These foods contain lots of added sugar and most are high in calories. These foods should be limited to lose weight.

  • Table sugar
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits – plain
  • Jam
  • Chocolate
  • Fudge
  • Candy
  • Toffee
  • Gums
  • Boiled sweets
  • Mint Sweets
  • Liquorice
  • Honey
  • Soft drinks
  • Tinned fruits
  • Chutney
  • Pickle
  • Puddlings – some

Complex Carbs

These give you energy over a longer period of time and take much longer to be broken down. This is because most natural forms of complex carbs also include fiber and other ingredients that slow the digestive process. Complex carbs are found as starches and fibers in foods such as rice, bread, potatoes, and pasta.

So while it is true that carbs give you the energy you need for the day, it is important not to take in more carbs than are necessary for fuel usage and storage. Once all storage areas are full, the excess carbs are converted and stored as fat.

The food list below shows good sources of complex carbohydrates.

  • Pasta
  • Macaroni
  • Spaghetti
  • Brown rice
  • Potatoes
  • Other root vegetables
  • Wholemeal breads
  • Granary bread
  • Brown bread
  • Pitta bread
  • Bagel
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • High fiber breakfast cereals
  • Porridge oats
  • All bran
  • Shredded wheat
  • Ryvita crispbread
  • Corn
  • Yam
  • Oatcakes
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Lentils

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