Opinion

Feared carbohydrates

by
September 22, 2016

I am guessing most of you have heard at one point that carbohydrates are bad for you, I am here to explain the importance of carbohydrates and how we should be embracing them, not fearing them.

Let’s start with what is a carbohydrate? Carbohydrates are a group of nutrients found in breads, cereals, fruits, starchy vegetables, pasta, rice, legumes, beans, milk, yoghurt and less nutritious foods such as lollies, cakes, biscuits, softdrinks and desserts.

When we eat any of these foods our body begins to break them down in the mouth, stomach and small intestine into glucose (sugar). Glucose is then transported via blood to the brain and muscle cells to provide us with energy. Excess glucose can be stored in the liver (approximately 150g at once).

So where did the idea about carbs making us fat come from? If we eat too much of any food it is likely to result in weight gain. Most meals we eat have some form of carbohydrate, protein and fat in them (meat, cheese and avocado sandwich, lean meat stir-fry or breakfast cereal with milk or yoghurt). Protein is the last nutrient our body will turn to for energy so it is likely to be used in recovery and building up muscle. That leaves the fat and carbohydrate – both of which are broken down into energy and/or stored to be used at a later time when energy is needed and we haven’t eaten. We can store unlimited amounts of fat but only about 150g glucose. Our body prefers to use carbs as energy because it is a more effective process. That leaves the excess fat which will be stored.

This would make people think – why not avoid carbs so we burn more fat. For fat to be broken down and used as energy it needs a product that is made when carbs are broken down. Our carbohydrates also provide us with a huge portion of fibre, which helps to keep our bowels regular and can play a role in reducing cholesterol.

So what causes us to put on weight? The answer is we are eating too much from each food group and discretionary choices. Don’t fear carbohydrates make healthier choices with the types you are consuming and don’t overindulge.

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