Carbohydrates, or otherwise known in short as carbs is one of the macronutrients which the body needs in large quantities. It is one of the basic food groups among the many that your body in order to stay healthy.

What is it used for?

Basically, being a macronutrient, the body needs carbohydrates to draw its energy from. It is one of the 3 major sources besides fats and proteins. In fact, carbohydrates are known as the main source of energy for the body. The name carbohydrate is taken from the 3 types of chemical levels namely oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. It must be noted that the body is not able to produce macronutrients which means that it will have to source it from the diet (food and supplements).

How many carbohydrates do you need?

The RDA or recommended daily amount of carbohydrates is 135gm for adults. The rule of thumb really is to have 45% to 65% of the total calories to be carbohydrates. Here, each gram is equivalent to 4 calories. In other words, it would be about 250gm of carbohydrates if a diet is about 1,900 calories. Having said that, pregnant women would need not less than 175gm of carbohydrates daily while diabetic patients should not take more than 200gm daily.

What does it do?

Generally, carbohydrates are the fuel provider for the body’s central nervous system. It is responsible for providing energy for the muscles. In one of the recent studies, it has also been found that carbohydrates actually promote better brain health too as it can help to influence the person’s mood and memory power but its fundamental purpose as an energy provider is still the primary strength.

Difference between simple and complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be put into 2 types namely simple and complex. The chemical structure differentiates both. Meanwhile, the speed by which the sugar is absorbed and subsequently digested in the body is another way to differentiate between simple and complex carbs. To put it simply, it is easier and faster to absorb and digest simple carbs as compared to their complex counterparts.
Fructose and galactose are the types of sugars found in simple carbs. The former are commonly sourced through fruits while milk products are very rich with galactose. In most cases, simple carbs would contain either one or two of these sugars where they are known as monosaccharides. Disaccharides are carbs with 2 sugars like sucrose, maltose and lactose. Sucrose are commonly found in table sugar while beer is rich with maltose and lactose can be found in a lot of dairy products. Besides that, you can find simple carbs in a lot of processed and refined sugar-related foods like soda and candy. These types of foods are referred to as ‘empty calories’ because they do not contain any form of minerals or nutrients. As such, they contribute largely to weight gain in the body.
On the other hand, complex carbohydrates contain at least 3 or more sugars which is known as polysaccharides. You will find those starchy foods will contain a lot of complex carbohydrates. This includes cereals, lentils, peanuts, beans, corns, wholegrain products and peas, to name a few.

How effectively do carbs provide energy?

Simple carbs, which naturally can be absorbed and digested faster than complex carbs would be able to provide energy quicker. In fact, they are the source of energy bursts when needed. However, it can cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels too. Meanwhile, for sustained or longer-term energy, complex carbs would be ideal.

Best sources of carbohydrate

The everyday diet is filled with a lot of carbohydrates (unless you are on a high protein diet). It is found in most types of foods that are good for the body as well as many others that are not. As such, there exist good and bad carbs. The main idea is to consume more food with good carbs (which in this context refer to as complex carbs).
Good carbs sources:

  • Not high on calories
  • High nutritional value and contents
  • Does not include refined sugars or grains
  • Low in saturated fat and sodium
  • High contents of fiber
  • low of trans fats

Meanwhile, the bad carbs (usually simple carbs) are found in foods that are opposite of what is listed above. Those with a lot of refined or artificial sugar like corn syrup and white flour are typical foods in this category.

What is carbohydrate good for?

Typically, carbohydrate helps to build a stronger body and immune system with a consistent source of energy. Besides that, carbohydrate is known to:

  • Improve mental health: This was found in a study that showed that people on a high-protein diet (low-carb) were experiencing anxiety and depression problems
  • Improve memory power
  • Weight control: It must be noted that taking the right type of carb actually helps to moderate body weight.
  • Heart condition: Carbohydrate-rich food would naturally be rich in fiber too which in turn lowers cholesterol.

Carbohydrate deficiency

The concept is simple. Without having enough carbohydrates in the body, you will lack energy. This means that your central nervous system will lack the necessary sugar. A person in this situation will experience nausea or dizziness which in the middle to long term will experience mental and physical weakness. If carbohydrate is not enough, then the body will use protein to produce energy which means your muscle will now suffer because protein is intended to build your muscles. Furthermore, not taking foods with sufficient levels of carbohydrate will mean you will lack in fiber-rich food.