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Monday, 18 February 2013 09:45

Choosing Good Carbohydrates for Healthy Body

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Carbohydrates…as depicted are not always harmful… they are essential ingredient of balanced diet.

carbohydratesLifestyle diseases create a curiosity about diet ingredients among the people. Health care providers always use terminology of carbohydrates while suggesting a dietary plan to patient with chronic illnesses.

However, lots of hype leads to misconceptions regarding the right selection of carbohydrate. People are now in the opinion that carbohydrates can lead to an array of diseases, including heart problem. Up to how much extent this can be true?

Carbohydrates can be good or bad depending on their action inside body. As per nutritional science, good carbohydrates are essential to body and promote healthy growth while bad when consume in large quantities pose the risk of overweight, diabetes or even heart diseases. So, not all carbohydrates are harmful to our body.

According to Harvard School of Public Health, easily digested carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, pastries, sugared sodas and other highly processed foods may contribute weight gain and interfere with weight loss. On the contrary, whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables and other sources of intact carbohydrates promote good health. So carbohydrates are not always dangerous but a vital ingredient of balanced diet.

Why carbohydrates are so essential

Carbohydrates are organic compounds composed of sugar, starch and cellulose. They are primary ingredients of range of food that we consume daily.  Carbohydrates are divided into two types simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include naturally-occurring sugars while complex carbohydrates consist of starch and dietary fiber.

  • Function as a primary source of energy

Carbohydrate provides sugar; a fuel for generating energy required for physical activity and varied body functions. Each gram of carbohydrate contributes to 4 Kilocalories. Depending on need, a body can utilize glucose immediately or stored in liver and muscles for future use.

  • Good nutritive value

Carbohydrate containing foodstuffs are also enriched in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and phytonutrients. All these nutrients are vital for building body immunity to fight against diseases.

  • Provide fiber

Fiber from complex carbohydrates maintains gut health, prevent constipation, and help in weight loss. Fiber aids to lower low-density cholesterol (LDL or bad cholesterol) and hence great help in reducing risk of heart disease.

Hence carbohydrates act as an important ingredient of well balanced diet.

Carbohydrates and Glycemic index

Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how a carbohydrate containing food raises a blood-sugar level after consumption. Based on the value of glycemic index, American Diabetes Association categorized food as,

  • Low GI food: Rise in blood-sugar level equals to 55 or less.
  • Medium GI food: Rise in blood-sugar level equals to 56 to 69.
  • High GI food: Rise in blood-sugar level equals to 70 or more.

Food with low glycemic index causes a gentler change in blood-sugar level without producing harmful effects on the body. However, food with high glycemic index causes a rapid spike in sugar level and raises the risk for diabetes, overweight and heart disease.

How to select good carbohydrates

While selecting your carbohydrates foods pay attention on glycemic index, fiber content and nutritive value. Here is the list of good carbohydrates with health benefits.

  • Whole grains: Whole grains are intact grains with low glycemic index and hence prevent a sugar spike, thus preventing insulin resistance and incidence of diabetes.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Apart from providing large quantity of fiber, fruits and vegetables are known for better anti-inflammatory effects. Both are rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that protect against various chronic illnesses.
  • Beans and Legumes: Black beans, white beans, soybeans, and kidney beans all are enriched with fiber that impart cholesterol-lowering effect and prevent a sugar-spike after a meal. Good source of fiber, proteins and minerals.
  • Nuts and seed: Walnuts, peanuts, almonds and seeds have strong anti-inflammatory benefits.

So, selecting good carbohydrates means choosing healthy well-balanced diet and promoting good health.

Image : Howard school of public health 

Read 3555 times Last modified on Monday, 18 February 2013 09:55

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