[Skip to content]

Wednesday 21 August 2019
Search our Site

Understanding carbohydrates: friend & foe!


Carbohydrates often receive some negative stigma, and have earned the perception of high-energy foods that are bad for you. Understanding food groups is the key to eating well, and knowing how to balance your diet across all food categories will help you on your way to a healthier body, and better all-round wellbeing. Carbohydrates are found in several different forms in almost every type of food you eat, and are what your body uses to get energy – without carbohydrates your body would not be able to function.

Different types of carbohydrates are made of different amounts of sugar molecules. Simple carbohydrates (e.g. the sugar in your tea) are made of a small number of sugar molecules, while complex or starchy carbohydrates are made of hundreds. These are the types of carbohydrates found in bread, pasta and some fruits and vegetables. When you digest carbohydrates, your body breaks down the molecules to the simple sugar forms, which is the main form of energy your body uses. This energy is then distributed to your cells.

Eating the right amount of carbohydrate

If you don’t include enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will start to break down fat and protein to get the sugar molecules it needs. Protein is valuable to your body, as it is the source for building and replenishing cells. Eating the right amount of carbohydrate will prevent this, and this is vital so that your body can use the protein to perform vital functions for everyday and long-term health.

When you perform activities that raise your heart rate and use more energy, such as a long walk or rigorous exercise, your body requires more carbohydrates than a person who is not completing such activities. If you eat more carbohydrates than your body uses, this will eventually lead to weight gain. Therefore understanding the amount as well as types of carbohydrates you need based upon your activity levels is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight, and to having enough energy in your body to avoid using your valuable protein stores.

Good and bad carbohydrates

Sugary foods like cakes and biscuits contain a lot of carbohydrates in simple sugar form. Eating a lot of these foods is harmful to your health because they often contain a large amount of fat, but also because they pack a lot of simple sugars into them, meaning you only have to eat a small portion before your calorie and sugar intake has rapidly increased. Eating starchy foods containing complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrain foods, will provide your body with slow releasing energy without as many ‘empty calories’ as sugary foods.

Wholegrain carbohydrates, such as whole-wheat bread, pasta and cereals, contain a lot of fibre and nutrients because they have not been refined or processed to look like their ‘whiter’ counterparts. Eating a balanced diet containing plenty of starchy, wholegrain carbohydrates will provide your body with more nutrients and fibre, and will keep your weight under control. An easy way to include more wholegrain carbohydrate into your diet is to reduce the amount of meat in your meals and swap with beans or pulses, reducing the amount of fat you intake as well as providing higher levels of fibre and slow releasing energy, making you feel fuller for longer.

Around half the energy you consume should come from carbohydrates, so being more aware of the forms of carbohydrate you include in your diet could help you make healthier decisions to provide your body with the best form of fuel it needs.

About CS Healthcare

This article is brought to you by CS Healthcare, the specialist provider of health insurance for those who work or have worked in the civil service, public sector, charitable or not for profit organisations. CS Healthcare stand apart from many of their competitors as a mutual friendly society established to protect their members and their families. Their mutual status means they just look after their members and, unlike some commercial insurers, do not have any shareholders. CS Healthcare pride themselves on providing a high level of personal service and it is this service that gives you access to experienced UK based staff, who are dedicated to helping you.


For further information regarding CS Healthcare please visit www.cshealthcare.co.uk.