My Tropicana Slim

Your Guide to Healthy Lifestyle

What are carbohydrates?

Good nutrition is very important to provide all the essential nutrients for good health, disease prevention and optimal growth/ development of child. These nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals as well as water.

Today, we will discuss the first macronutrients, carbohydrate.

Whether you are burning midnight oil to study, daydreaming or even relaxing reading this blog, you need carbohydrates to provide the energy to the brain. Your muscle needs carbohydrates as a fuel for daily activities too, such as walking, dancing, cooking etc.

So, what is actually carbohydrate and why is it so important to us?

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates or carbs are the body s primary energy source and the main fuel for working muscles. Carbohydrates get broken down during digestion into glucose, which can be used immediately for energy. The rest is stored as glycogen in the muscle and liver, or it is converted to fat if excess calories are consumed. Glycogen is the body s storage form of carbohydrate. The more muscle glycogen stored means the more fuel you have to power your activity.

Both complex carbs (starch) and simple carbs (sugars) supply energy and replenish muscle glycogen. Examples of simple carbs include table sugar, honey and the natural sugars found in milk and fruits. Examples of starches are grains and grain products (e.g. rice, noodles, bread, oats, chappati and biscuits), starchy vegetables (e.g. potato and yam), beans and lentils

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What is the importance of carbohydrates?

The main function of carbohydrate is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain (the only carbohydrate-dependent organ). Our body will break down the sugar and starches food into glucose as energy fuel. Glucose that the body does not use right away will be stored in liver as glycogen. Glycogen will be converted back to glucose when body needs it, for example, people who are on fasting and marathon runners.

Dietary fiber is not categorised as essential nutrient and cannot be digested by the body, therefore contribute no energy to the body. However, it is recognised as important component of healthy diet. It helps to prevent constipations, give feeling of stomach satiety and lowers blood cholesterol level.

How to choose carbohydrate wisely?

Excessively consumption of carbohydrate can lead to overweight and obesity problem, and high blood sugar for people with diabetes. Below are some tips to choose carbohydrate wisely:

  1. Limit processed foods and drinks that are high in refined sugars such as doughnut, cakes, cookies, soft drinks etc. They provide calories but little or no nutritional value
  2. Choose wholegrain products more often, such as brown rice, wholemeal breads/ biscuits, wholegrain breakfast cereal.
  3. Eat most of your fruit fresh rather than fruit juice.
  4. Prepare drinks and foods with little added sugar.
  5. Read nutrition label when shopping.
  6. Incorporate oats in baking or meal, for instances, oats chapatti, thickening agents for sauce & curries.

Guest Columnist
Lai Huey Qin
Dietitian
B. Sc Dietetics, UPM

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This entry was posted on March 11, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , .

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