What are carbohydrates (carbs)?
Carbohydrates are one of the highly essential macronutrients required for our body-the other two are protein and fats. There are three types of carbohydrates found in food-sugar, starch, and fiber.
Why do we need Carbohydrates?
They are the most important source of energy for the body; the digestive system converts carbs into blood sugar or glucose.
The body uses this glucose as energy, for fuelling our activities, whether going for a jog or just breathing. Unused glucose is converted into glycogen, which is found in the liver and muscles.
The fiber found in fruits and vegetables is an essential part of a healthy diet as it promotes good bowel health, reduces the risk of constipation, and also reduces cholesterol levels.
Studies also proved fiber-rich diet lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and bowel cancer.
Are Carbohydrates really bad?
The idea that “carbs are bad” has left many of us confused about carbohydrates and their importance for our health, including maintaining a healthy weight. Researchers say people should know that not all carbs are the same. It’s the type, quality, and quantity of the diet that is important.
Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy, and hence, in their absence, the body will use protein and fat for energy. It may also become difficult to get enough fiber, as it is important for long-term health.
Significantly reducing carbohydrates from the diet in the long term may put you at risk of nutrient deficiency and related health issues. Also, replacing carbs with fats and protein-rich foods increases the intake of saturated fat, which raises the cholesterol in your blood, which may lead to a heart attack.
When you are low in glucose, the body breaks down fat to convert into energy, and this process may cause a build-up of ketones in the body, a process called ketosis-this condition causes headaches, weakness, nausea, dehydration, dizziness, and irritability.
What are good carbs and bad carbs?
These terms are made popular by diet promoters. Basically, good carbs mean foods that contain high fiber amounts; they take a longer time to break and be used for energy. Examples include whole-grain bread and cereals, products made from whole wheat flour, vegetables, and fruits.
Bad carbs refer to foods that contain refined carbohydrates with a low fiber amount. Examples include- white bread, cakes, cookies, and other bakery items made with white flour, white (processed) rice, and some cereals.
How many carbohydrates should I take?
Researchers recommend that just over a third of your diet should include starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, and over a third should be fruits and vegetables.
What carbohydrates should I eat?
Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey recommends that we should eat more fiber and starchy foods and fewer confectionery like sweets, chocolates, biscuits, pastries, cakes, and soft drinks. These are usually high in sugar and calories that may increase the risk of tooth decay and increase the bodyweight if you eat them too often while providing few other nutrients.
Fruit, vegetables, pulses, and starchy foods provide a wider range of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, which are beneficial to health.
How to increase fiber intake?
To increase the fiber intake in your diet, aim for at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg a day.
Try to aim for an average intake of 30g of fiber a day. Here are some examples of the typical fiber content in some common foods:
2 breakfast wheat biscuits (approx. 37.5g) – 3.6g of fiber
1 slice of wholemeal bread – 2.5g (1 slice of white bread – 0.9g)
80g of cooked wholewheat pasta – 4.2g
1 medium (180g) baked potato (with skin) – 4.7g
80g of cooked beans – 1.6g
80g of cooked carrots – 2.2g
1 small cob (3 heaped tablespoons) of sweetcorn – 2.2g
200g of baked beans – 9.8g
1 medium orange – 1.9g
1 medium banana – 1.4g
Now comes the main question- Do carbohydrates make us fat?
Any food can cause weight gain if we overeat. Whether our diet is rich in fat or carbohydrates, if we frequently consume more energy than the body uses or requires, we are most likely to end up putting on weight.
In fact, carbohydrate contains fewer than half the calories of fat. Foods high in fiber add bulk to the meal and help feel full. But foods high in sugar are often high in calories, and eating these foods too often can contribute to becoming overweight.
So, don’t take carbohydrates for granted and make your own assumptions regarding their importance in overall health. Take sufficient carbs in the diet and stay healthy!
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