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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Carbohydrates


What are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are energy suppliers for the vital organs of the body, such as, central nervous system, kidneys, heart and brain. Fifty to sixty per cent of the daily calorie requirement is provided by carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, protein and fat are the three major macronutrients, essential for our daily lives. Carbohydrates are metabolized into simple sugars, such as glucose.
Blood glucose is removed and pushed into the cells by insulin. Insulin is the hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas.  Beating of the heart, respiratory pattern and digestion require the energy provided by carbohydrates.

Based on the chemical structure, carbohydrates are classified into simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are broken down rapidly and include refined sugars. Fruit juices, sugar, molasses, milk, honey, fruits and yoghurt are simple carbohydrates. They are also referred to ‘bad carbohydrates’. Polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates are those that have a longer transit time. They are a bundle of vitamins, dietary fiber and minerals. They are ‘good carbohydrates’. Complex carbohydrates comprise of elongated strands of simple sugars and take more time to break down.

Three types of dietary fiber fall under the category of complex carbohydrates, namely, cellulose, hemicellulose and gums. They are provided by the legumes, fruits, vegetables, cereals and pasta in our diet. Both the types provide 4 calories per gram. Natural and unrefined carbohydrates are recommended, as they have a low glycemic index. High glycemic index foods increase the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance and hypertension.

Low carbohydrate diets are recommended under a dietitian’s guidance. Such diets provide 60gm of carbohydrates per day, but are high in saturated fats. This diet decreases the intake of fruits and vegetables. Such diets recommend energy from fat and protein sources. Certain vegetables, cereals and fruits are restricted. Dairy products and meat in the diet are increased.

Vegetables and fruits are a storehouse of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. They are especially recommended in a weight loss diet. Reduced incidence of heart diseases and degenerative diseases is seen in individuals on good carbohydrates. Five servings of fruits are advised. Whole grains, such as, rye, oats, whole wheat and others reduce the glycemic index. Potatoes provide a feeling of satiety, but are refined carbohydrates. The have a greater glycemic index. Fresh potatoes are preferred in addition to sweet potatoes. They are devoid of fat and comprise of potassium and vitamin C. Making them a part of the diet with other low glycemic index foods is preferred.
Submitted on January 16, 2014