What are Carbs?

Carbohydrates or carbs are simply molecules which have oxygen, hydrogen and carbon atoms. According to nutrition, carbs normally refer to macronutrients. Dietary carbohydrates exist in three categories: as sugars, fiber, and starches. Sugars are short-chain carbs which have a sweet taste. They include sucrose, galactose, glucose, and fructose. Fiber is a part of vegetable & fruit which can’t be digested. Although the human body can’t digest fiber, the bacteria that is found in the digestive tract feeds on them. Starches are long-chain molecules which are changed to glucose in the digestive tract.

Sugars are sometimes known as simple carbohydrates while starches are also known as polysaccharides. An oligosaccharide is considered as a carbohydrate and it falls between starch and sugar. It contains a combination of various simple sugars which are fermentable. Oligosaccharides are prebiotics and they help to improve the digestive health.

Recommended Daily Carb Intake

There are a lot of factors which help to determine the recommended daily carb intake. Apart from sex and age, weight and height are also crucial. A person’s level of physical activity is a big determinant as well. This means the more active a person is, the more energy they need hence more calorie intake. As per the American Dietary Guidelines, it’s recommended that 45-65 percent of your daily carbohydrates should come from calories.

The main function of carbs is to provide energy. Carbohydrates may be broken down, converted into glucose or stored as fat. Although fiber does not directly provide energy in the body, bacteria use them to produce fatty acids which are used by certain cells as energy.

Whole versus Refined Carbs

All Carbohydrates are not the same. There are numerous foods which have different types of carbs. Carbs are sometimes referred to as simple or complex, but also as refined or whole. Whole carbohydrates are usually unprocessed. They contain high amounts of fiber and they occur naturally in foods. Examples of refined carbs include whole grains, potatoes, whole fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Refined carbs are processed and their natural fiber content is usually stripped out. They normally contain additives such as sweeteners, additives, and preservatives. They include pastries, white rice, sweetened beverages, white pasta, white bread and fruit juices. Refine carbs have been associated with a number of diseases such as diabetes type 2 and obesity. The main side effect of refined carbs is that they cause harmful sugar spikes which can lead to a crash. As a result of this, refined carbohydrates are associated with increased food cravings and hunger pangs. Furthermore, they lack the essential nutrients hence they have empty calories.

Sources of High-Carb Foods

A lot of people are suffering from being overweight and obese. However, the weight gain epidemic is usually associated with carbohydrates. It’s important to note that all carbohydrates are not the same. What causes obesity is junk foods which contain refined grains and high amounts of sugar. Whole grains, fiber, and protein-rich foods are healthy. They also help to promote weight loss. High carb foods include:

Oats

Among whole grain foods, oats are considered as the healthiest. The fiber-rich grains are also great sources of minerals, vitamins as well as antioxidants. Raw oats are composed of about 66 percent carbs, of which 10 percent is fiber. These grains which are also great sources of protein contain beta-glucan, a highly soluble fiber that helps to slow down the process of digestion. The benefits of these good carbs are that they help to lower the cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

Quinoa

This is a highly nutritious seed. Quinoa has become a popular ingredient in most meal replacement supplements. The seed which can be prepared and consumed just like grains has high carb content. Quinoa that’s cooked contains 21 percent of carbs and it’s rated as a high-carb food. This seed is also a good source of fiber and protein. Besides those, quinoa has a rich blend of plant-based minerals and vitamins which help to reduce the high blood sugar levels.

Quinoa is a vegan-friendly and gluten-free source of fiber. It’s the best alternative to wheat. It aids in weight loss thanks to its filling effects. The high protein and fiber content found in this seed also promote the development of lean muscles by increasing the rate of metabolism.

Buckwheat

Uncooked buckwheat contains almost 72 percent of carbohydrates. This is a highly nutritious source of carbs that is highly nutritious. Buckwheat also contains high amounts of fiber, minerals, protein, and antioxidants. It helps to regulate the blood sugar levels hence its beneficial for diabetics. In addition to that, buckwheat helps to promote the heart health.

Beetroots

Both cooked and raw beetroots contain about 10 percent of carbohydrates. The carbs are mainly from fiber and sugar. In addition to that, beetroot is packed with plant-based compounds, potent antioxidants, minerals and vitamins which help to support healthy growth and development. The organic nitrates which are found in beets help to decrease the risk of certain diseases, reduce the blood pressure and increase endurance during physical activities.

Bananas

This popular fruit contains up to 25 percent of carbs which are found in form of sugars or starches. Bananas are known to their high potassium content. In addition to that, bananas have the vital vitamin C and B6 which help to promote good health. The pectin and resistant starch found in unripe bananas help to feed the gut bacteria and to enhance the digestive health.

Blueberries

They are incredibly sweet berries which are rich in antioxidants. Blueberries are superfoods and they have about 15 percent carbs. They are packed with minerals and vitamins such as manganese, vitamins K and C. They help to flush out radicals from the body and improve memory.

Oranges

This popular fruit that is rich in water contains about 12 percent carbohydrates. The fiber-rich fruit contains vitamin C, B, and potassium which are rich in potent compounds as well as antioxidants. Consuming oranges may help to improve the heart health and also reduce the risk of kidney stones. Besides that, oranges may increase a person’s uptake of iron thereby reducing the risk of anemia.

Grapefruit

This is a citrus fruit that contains about 10 percent of carbohydrates. Grapefruit has high amounts of plant compounds, minerals, and vitamins. Grapefruit helps to aid in weight loss and also reduce the body’s resistance to insulin. Furthermore, this fruit protects the body against diseases such as colon cancer and lowers the level of blood cholesterol.

Apple

Apple is a crunchy and sweet fruit that contains about 13-15 percent carbs. They have moderate amounts of minerals and vitamins. The high amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C help to promote immunity. Apples help to control the blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Although a high-carb diet is good, some people may prefer a low carb diet. A low carb diet restricts high intake of carbs while encouraging high intake of fiber and protein. A lot of people who are struggling with obesity are usually encouraged a low-carb diet. It also helps to improve the level of good cholesterol in the body. Furthermore, low-carb diets are associated with reduced blood pressure and lower blood sugar. But as much as a low-carb diet might be good for some people, it isn’t the solution for everyone.

Sources of Bad Carbohydrates

As much as there are numerous sources of good carbs, there are also bad carbs. They help to promote weight gain and they are normally linked as sources of certain diseases. Bad carbohydrates can be derived from:

• White bread-it contains refined carbs which have low amounts of essential nutrients. White bread has a negative effect on the metabolic health.
• Ice cream – contains high amounts of sugar which promote weight gain.
• Fruit Juices –Fruit juices are rich in sugars which affect the metabolic health.
• Sugary drinks – include Pepsi, coca cola etc. all which have high amounts of sugar that can interfere with the normal functions of the body.
• Chocolates and sweets – they have high amounts of sugars. If you must eat chocolate then choose dark chocolate.

High- Quality and Low-Quality Carbohydrates

High-quality carbs are normally found in naturally occurring plants. They are normally derived from whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. High-quality carbohydrates help to improve the consumer’s overall health. Meanwhile. Low-quality carbs are found in processed foods. Normally, they contain added preservatives and additives including fat and sugar to improve their shelf life and taste. Although low-quality carbohydrates may contain vitamins and minerals, they lack the essential nutrients which are found in whole foods. Low-quality carbohydrates include baked foods, sweetened cereals, and beverages, white bread, potato products that have been processed among others.

Note that low-quality carbs are usually easily digested leading to sugar spikes. In addition to that, they also lead to a feeling of fullness that only lasts for a few minutes. High-quality carbs contain nutrients and fibers which are derived from whole foods. They gradually help to aid the conversion of sugar and starch to glucose without causing rapid satiating effects and insulin spikes.

Final Thoughts

As much as low-carb diet is good, it doesn’t fit everyone. Factors such as metabolic health, age, physical activity, and gender greatly determine nutrition. All you have to do is to ensure that you take an adequate amount of carbs which the body needs in order to function.