Note: this post has been updated in March 2021.
Carbohydrates are sources of energy and one of the six Essential Nutrients that are necessary for energy and materials for life building processes in the human body. Thus the term essential nutrients.
There is a lot confusion about carbohydrates, but you should remember it is more important to eat healthy food carbohydrates rather than being on a diet restricting carbohydrates or counting carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of both healthy and unhealthy foods—bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.
Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. But carbohydrate quality is important; some types of carbohydrate-rich foods are better than others:
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates—unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. Via – What are carbohydrates?
“Carbohydrates are macro-nutrients, meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories,” said Paige Smathers, a Utah-based registered dietitian. The American Diabetes Association notes that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Types of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the major source of energy for your body to perform its daily physical tasks every day. There are two major types of carbohydrates which are discussed below.
Simple carbohydrates contain simple sugar that is found in foods like sugar, syrups, candy, and soda. Simple carbohydrates raise blood glucose level and don’t provide any essential nutrients. Which over time will lead to many different types of health problems? Some simple carbohydrate food examples: sugar, syrups, candy, soda, pastries, desserts etc.
Complex carbohydrates are mostly starches and dietary fibers. These carbs have a complex chemical structure that slows down the quick rise of blood glucose level. Complex carbohydrates are rich in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. These are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Some complex carbohydrates examples: apple, bagels, macaroni, strawberries, spinach etc.
The truth about carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are much maligned in the health world. There are many books and articles that encourage you to cut out your carbs. The claim is carbs are bad for you and will make you fat. That is totally not true! Carbs are necessary for us to live a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at the following posts on carbs. Not all carbs are created equal and Good Fat vs Bad Fat on a Plant-Based Diet
Follow the science
The science confirms that a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods can help you live to the fullest and still get adequate protein. In fact, a growing number of physicians advocate a completely plant-based diet for many of their patients who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Check out these great sources Plant-Based Nutrition, 2E (Idiot’s Guides), Nutrition Facts: The Truth About Food and The Forks Over Knives Plan The Forks over Knifes, a simple plan that focuses on hearty comfort foods and does not involve portion control or worrying about obtaining single nutrients like protein and calcium.
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The Food Revolution Network aims to empower individuals, build community, and transform food systems to support healthy people and a healthy planet.
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