In today’s world carbohydrates or ‘carbs’ as they may be otherwise known, have been grouped into the category of foods which we consider to be bad for consumption. ‘Stay away from carbs they say, if you’re on a quest to lose weight and be healthy!’ and foolishly we do, opting instead to indulge in these fad diets and extravagant cleanses, in a drastic bid to either lose weight or promote good health. But our fear of Carbs is rooted in our misunderstanding of its function within our bodies. Carbohydrates are just as important to maintain a healthy balance and need not be carded off to the side and ignored.
As one of the three macronutrients which provide sources of energy for our bodies, carbohydrates, when consumed, are converted into glucose which our bodies need to fuel cells and promote muscle growth and development. Additionally carbohydrates are relied upon to enhance the functions of the brain, among other organs. And since macronutrients cannot be produced by the body on its own, it has to be provided through our diet.
Carbohydrates can be found in a variety of foods such as rice, bread, pastries and even soda. These food types however, though commonly consumed around the world because of their tasty and often cheap appeal, are considered to be bad carbs, as they contain little nutritional value, and are high in calories, sodium, saturated fat and low in fiber. On the other hand, good carbs can be found in foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes. They are characterised by low sodium content, diminished levels of saturated fats and cholesterol and are known to contain a high concentration of nutrients.
Carbohydrates can be broken down into four distinct types – monosaccharides (consisting of glucose, fructose and galactose) polysaccharides (further broken down into starch, fiber and glycogen), and oligosaccharides, and disaccharides (simple sugars such as sucrose, maltose and lactose).
Carbohydrates provide a wide range of benefits to the body. It helps to boost our metabolism and overall performance while providing an excellent source of energy in approximately four (4) kcal or 17 KJ per gram. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which the body uses for energy and stores as fat if unused and acts as fuel for the nervous systems and brain. Additionally, cells are also affected by the consumption of carbohydrates. Cell and tissue regeneration can be compromised if the body is lacking in the requisite amounts of carbohydrates it needs. This forces the body to use protein as a subsidiary source of fuel. This may disrupt the way protein is usually processed by the body as a catalyst for muscle growth and development.