Complete Guide to Carbohydrates: Benefits & Types of Carbs
There are plenty of good reasons to keep carbs high: In addition to helping you feel fuller longer, they also boost performance in athletes and exercise performance. That’s because the body uses carbohydrates as its primary source of fuel, so these macronutrients provide quick, easily accessible energy during exercise. Reducing carbohydrates can help you lose weight quickly and may improve insulin levels and risk factors for heart disease.
However, reducing carbs is not appropriate for everyone, particularly if you need them for extended athletic performance or other activities that require high-intensity bursts of energy like vigorous workouts. There are many different types of carbohydrates, but all are broken down into simple sugars (monosaccharides) and complex chains (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides). Understanding the various kinds of carbs and what roles they play in your diet can help you make better food choices .
What is Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) found in food. They are the primary source of fuel for the body. Carbohydrates are also important for our immune system, metabolic regulation, and normal growth and development. While protein and fat are more concentrated fuels, carbohydrates are the most easily digestible and most abundant source of fuel.
Carbohydrates are made of sugar and fiber groups called saccharides. There are two types of saccharides: mono-saccharides, which include glucose, fructose, and galactose, and disaccharides, which are made up of two mono-saccharides bonded together, such as sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar). All carbohydrates are made up of sugar. However, some also contain fiber, which does not break down into sugar.
The Importance of Carbs
Carbohydrates are the most abundant macronutrient in the diet and provide energy for daily activities. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is used as a source of energy. If you do not have enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will break down protein and fat to create glucose.
Carbohydrates are also important for maintaining a healthy immune system, metabolic regulation, and normal growth and development. A low-carbohydrate diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies and can increase the risk of heart disease.
Types of Carbohydrates
Simple sugars: These are monosaccharides, which include glucose, fructose, galactose, and ribose. Some simple sugars are naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains. Others are added to foods as sweeteners.
Complex carbohydrates: These chains of monosaccharides are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Whole grain products, legumes, and nuts are examples of foods that contain complex carbohydrates.
Benefits of Carbohydrates in a Healthy Diet
Carbohydrates are important for daily activities, such as athletic performance and normal growth and development.
Boosts Performance in Athletes: Carbs are the primary source of energy used during exercise. When you work out, your body converts glycogen and glucose from your muscles, blood, and liver into energy. Carbs can also help you recover after a workout.
Promotes Weight Loss and Improved Insulin Levels: Eating a low-carb diet can help you lose weight quickly, but it may be hard to follow for a long period of time. A low-carb diet may also cause your blood glucose levels to drop, which may lead to symptoms, such as fatigue and cravings, that are associated with insulin resistance.
Improves Heart Health: Studies show that limiting carbohydrate intake may improve risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Potential Problems with High Carb Diets
All Carbs are Not Created Equally: Some carb sources are healthier than others. While all carbs provide energy, some are broken down quickly and provide quick bursts of energy, while others release their energy more slowly.
Reduces the Absorption of Healthy Nutrients: Eating too many carbs can reduce your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin D. Carbohydrates also reduce the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber.
Increases Weight Gain: Eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain. The body stores extra carbs as fat when it does not use them for energy.
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for daily activities and exercise. Eating healthy sources of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease. Limiting carbohydrate intake too much can reduce nutrient absorption and lead to weight gain.