The Nutrients: Carbohydrates

Posted Feb 9, 2016

Have you ever heard any of these statements: “Carbs are bad” or “Carbs make you fat”?

I’m sure someone has said something like this to you before, or maybe you might have thought this yourself at some point.

But, are these statements accurate? The answer is Absolutely, Positively, Without A Doubt NO!

Let’s find out why.

What is a Carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates are essentially different types of sugar molecules attached together in short chains (simple carbohydrates) or long chains (complex carbohydrates). Simple carbohydrates form things like sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar). These are broken down and absorbed by the body very quickly, which is why foods high in sugar or other simple carbs can contribute to many chronic diseases (diabetes and insulin spikes), and should be consumed in limited amounts.

Complex carbohydrates form things like starch and fibre. These are broken down and absorbed more slowly by the body, which is why it is recommended that you consume more of the foods that contain these nutrients.

What Do Carbohydrates Do?

Carbohydrates provide ENERGY!

About half of the energy your body uses should come from carbs (other half from fat and protein).

Your brain also utilizes carbs for energy better than any other source. Hence, why you shouldn’t deprive yourself of carbs (ie. Low-carb diets).

Fibre is one of the most important carbohydrates as well. There are two types of fibre: Soluble and Insoluble.

1) Soluble Fibre

  • Slows digestion of food to allow body to absorb more of the nutrients
  • Binds to fat and removes it from the body
  • Best Sources: Fruit, Oats, Legumes (beans, lentils, nuts)

2) Insoluble Fibre

  • Helps push food through the intestines (prevents constipation)
  • A natural scrubber to clean your insides
  • Best Sources: Whole-grain products, Vegetables

Food Sources

All kinds of food contain carbohydrates, but only 3 of the 4 food groups do:

  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Grain Products
  • Milk & Alternatives

The key is to make good selections from each of these groups. For instance, select whole grain products (bread, pasta, rice, cereal) over white products. Select fresh fruits and vegetables over juice. Utilize granola or oatmeal in your meal or snack. Try different products in different combinations.

Analogy

Think of your body as a car.

Carbohydrates are like the gasoline (fuel) that you put into your car.

To get the best performance, would you use regular gasoline or premium gasoline in your car?

Making good carbohydrates selections is like putting premium gasoline in your car.

What Are My Requirements?

Everybody has different carbohydrates requirements, depending on their activity levels and objectives.

The best method for ensuring that you meet your daily requirements is to achieve the recommended number of servings from each of the food groups in Canada’s Food Guide (see previous blog entry for a link to the online guide).

For more detailed and specific guidelines, contact a Dietitian (specifically, the IPP Professional Dietitian).

In summary, hopefully, this information has dispelled those previous misconceptions about carbohydrates. You definitely need carbohydrates in your diet. The key is not to consume too much or too little, but enough to fuel your performance, and keep you healthy and energized.

Good Luck!

Luke Corey, PDt.
Complete Health and Nutrition

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