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Carbohydrates - Understanding Macronutrients

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The Body Needs Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates supply our bodies with energy to perform activities of daily living as well as structured physical activity.  Carbohydrates (depending on the type) also serve as a source for quality vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol are each sources of calories in the diet and all of them can be part of a healthy eating plan - the key is dietary balance.

Types of Carbohydrates

The different foods we eat can supply three (3) types of carbohydrates: Starches, Fiber, Sugar

  • Carbohydrates are called either "simple" or "complex" depending on their chemical make-up or structure. 
  • The type of carbohydrate you eat makes a difference in how quickly (or slowly) your body can process and absorb it.
  • Simple carbohydrates, like fructose, are processed more quickly and can raise triglyceride levels. Triglycerides (or blood fats) are an important measure of metabolic health and high levels may be associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver [1].
  • Complex carbohydrates contain higher amounts of fiber and are processed more slowly, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels and support better digestive health. 

Are Carbohydrates Fattening?

All carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram.  Overconsuming calories, no matter where they come from, can lead to weight gain or being overweight.  To maintain calorie (and weight) balance, be intentional with how much you eat and how physically active you are.  To better understand calories, food make-up and ways to get active, read:

Can Carbohydrates Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Absolutely!  Though health experts recommend the more complex varieties, like non-starchy fruits/veggies, legumes and whole (unprocessed) grains be the majority of your intake.  And whenever possible, replace simple (highly processed) carbohydrate foods - and those containing added sugars - with more complex varieties. Check out these resources to understand more about complex carbohydrates:

Practice Makes Perfect

Cook it up and try your hand at a new, (complex) carb-loaded meal tonight! Forage through these stacks of recipes - beans, pasta and grains - for some healthy meal ideas.