February 24, 2017
Carbohydrates refer to how much energy is released by the nutrients in that food once the food has been digested and absorbed. The nutrients that provide calories are called macronutrients, and include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Getting the recommended amount of macronutrients is crucial for the human body to produce energy.
Many of us are confused when it comes to carbohydrates. We as a society have a misunderstanding that carbohydrates are bad so we should eliminate them fully from our daily diet. When in reality carbohydrates supply much needed energy, 4 calories per gram to be exact, they spare protein, and they help maintain blood sugar. Carbohydrates are a diverse class of nutrients and each specific type has more health benefits than the other. Therefore, the type of carbohydrate you consume is crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Carbohydrates are made up of carbon and water and are categorized as either complex or simple based on how many carbon / water units they contain. A carbohydrate with more than 10 carbon/water units is a complex carbohydrate and a carbohydrate with less than 10 carbon/water units is a simple carbohydrate.
Carbohydrates are naturally present in almost all plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grain, and legumes, and in milk, primarily as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include the fiber and starch found in whole grains and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates can be categorized as different types of sugars such as: fructose, lactose, maltose, etc. The majority of carbohydrates added to processed foods are in the form of simple sugar. It is crucial that most, if not all carbohydrates come from complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, grains, pasta, and rice. Eating whole grain varieties of these foods has more health benefits and will provide more nutrients and more fiber than consuming highly processed varieties of the same food.
Carbohydrates are an important fuel for before, during, and following exercise but our body stores a limited amount in the skeletal muscle and liver, so carbohydrates must be replenished on a daily basis. In order to replenish these carbohydrates you must consume the carbohydrate, preferably complex carbohydrates. Activity level will determine the amount of carbohydrates you should consume daily. It is recommended that adults consumer 45 – 65 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates, primarily as complex carbohydrates and whole grains. The recommendations provide a place to start, but each and every one of you should find what works best for your body and particular goal you are working towards. Also, consult with your physician if you have specific questions pertaining to you as an individual. The availability of carbohydrates as a fuel for the human body is crucial for prime exercise performance.