Health & Fitness
Friday August 19, 2011
Choose your carbs wisely
Here's what you should know about carbohydrates. Carbs are a readily available source of energy used by every cell in your body. It's an organic compound which may be simple or complex. All carbohydrates are broken down by digestive processes into glucose, which is absorbed and utilised by the body in various ways.
When sugars are involved, the process is rapid and the resulting glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream. It may be used immediately, particularly if energy demands are high, as during vigorous exercise. Athletes often take glucose expressly for this purpose.
Glucose is also required for the healthy function of red blood cells and is the main source of energy for the brain. Starches are more complex (polysaccharide) carbohydrates – it's a built up of chains of simple glucose molecules. They take longer to be broken down by digestive processes than sugars, thus providing a slower, more gradual supply of glucose.
In conditions in which there is a lack of available glucose (as in starvation or extreme physical exercise) the body is able to manufacture it, at least from time, in the liver by a process. Conversely, excess glucose is converted by the liver into the complex (polysaccharide) carbohydrate glycogen (animal starch).
This is stored in the body, particularly in liver and muscle cells and is used first when there is a lack of glucose in the blood. It is the glycogen store which is initially used up when a person embarks upon a calorie reduced diet and this is utilised quite rapidly. It is only when glycogen has been depleted that fat deposits begin to be mobilised as a source of energy.
In general, simple sugars, especially the refined type found in processed foodstuffs such as sweets, biscuits, cakes, chocolates, sauces, etc, merely provide the body with calories, usually in excess of the amount needed for energy requirements. Starches, which are found in a wide range of foods including cereals, grains, bread, potatoes and other vegetables and fruits are far more useful and often have accompanying fibre, vitamins and minerals.
However, the levels of beneficial substance are reduced in starchy foods which are processed and refined, such as white varieties of bread, pasta, flour and rice. Many Malaysians eat only these unhelpful forms of refined sugars and carbohydrates which are easily eaten to excess and are readily converted to fat, greatly contributing towards the problems of weight gain and obesity.
Complex Carbohydrates is healthier than simple carbs because it takes the body longer to break them down. This slow digestion releases sugar into the blood system, creating a consistent level of energy. Nutritional experts recommend that complex carbohydrates in the form of starchy foods should constitute 60-70 per cent of the overall daily intake of calories.
These should be in the form of wholemeal bread, cereals, whole grains, brown rice, pasta and potatoes (especially with their skins) which have a high content of fibre as well as starch. They are also more filling than white varieties of the same foods and hence reduce the tendency to overeat. This not only aids weight loss in obesity but assist in the maintenance of a correct and healthy weight.
So the next time when you load up on carbs, choose wisely….simple or complex
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