eating simply, simply eating: why we need carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the macronutrients we need in the largest amounts. They are the body’s main source of fuel, with every tissue and cell in the body using the glucose they deliver for energy. This can also be stored in the muscles and liver to be used later. Carbohydrates are essential for the nervous system, kidneys, brain, muscles and heart to function correctly. Important for intestinal health, they provide nutrients for our friendly bacteria and also aid with waste elimination.
There are three different kinds of carbohydrates.
- Simple carbohydrates (sugars) – found naturally in fruits, honey, dairy and vegetables. However, these are also found in processed foods such as sodas/fizzy drinks and cakes. For a healthy routine nutrition processed foods should not be the main source of carbohydrates. It’s also important to be aware that sugar is a carbohydrate, but not all carbohydrates are sugars.
- Complex carbohydrates (starches) – found in plant-based foods, also known as dietary starch. Complex carbohydrates such as 100% wholegrain bread, pasta, cereals and brown rice provide a slow steady release of energy throughout the day. Wholegrain contains the bran, germ and endosperm, meaning the body gets all the nutrients wholegrains have to offer. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, rice and processed cereals do not provide the whole array of vitamins and minerals. If this is your main source, your body could be missing out. As a good rule of thumb, the less refined the carbohydrates, the more positive the effect on health. Wholegrain foods should not be cut out of a healthy routine nutrition, unless for medical reasons, as the body could be deprived of vital nutrients.
- Fibre – found only in plant-based foods such as legumes and wholegrains. A routine nutrition rich in fibre is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer, while it can also help maintain a healthy weight.
There are two different kinds of fibre:
- Soluble fibre, which can be digested by the body and aids with constipation.
- Insoluble fibre, which can’t be digested by the body and aids with healthy bowls.
Excellent sources of fibre contain 5g serving or more. Always try to get your fibre from real foods. If you feel you need fibre supplements consult a doctor or registered dietitian physician first.
Why the type of carbohydrates consumed is important
Britain’s leading anti-obesity campaign group, the National Obesity Forum (NOF) created a great deal of turmoil recently by recommending people should reduce carbohydrates, eat more fat and stop counting calories.
We of course have already reviewed the Public Health England Eatwell plate, comparing it with the superior US recommendations from Tufts University, Boston – Food plates: UK versus USA. The critical question is the inclusion of the most appropriate carbohydrates in a routine nutrition, with the UK missing the opportunity to actively discourage the inclusion of refined starchy carbohydrates, even though the recommendation is to ‘choose wholegrain’. Excessive consumption of refined starchy carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and increased body fat, as refined carbohydrates are absorbed rapidly into the blood stream causing blood sugar and insulin level spikes. Further, when wholewheat is refined the outer bran layers and germ are removed. As most nutrients are found in the bran and germ they are lost, as well as suffering a loss of fibre. Wholewheat also contains many different antioxidants important in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Just Routine is our real food app. Designed to be inclusive, to avoid cutting out macro or micro nutrients from our eating regimes, six key food groups lie at its core: Protein, Carbohydrates, Legumes, Vegetables, Fruits, Fats. It’s about eating simply, simply eating..
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