Min menu


Hot Articles

What are carbohydrates? Categories of Carbohydrates

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, together with lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, are one of the four major classes of biologically essential organic molecules found in all living organisms.
Carbohydrates, all coming from the process of photosynthesis, represent the major part of organic substance on Earth, are the most abundant organic components in the major part of fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereal grains, carry out many functions in all living organisms and are the major energy source in a Mediterranean-type diet. Finally, they provide flavor and texture in many processed foods.

Carbohydrates can be divided into three groups:

Simole Starchy Carbohydrates

(e.g. sugar, honey, fruit, fruit juice)

Simple carbohydrates have a ‘simple’ molecular structure and are made up of 1-2 sugar molecules. The simplest form of carbohydrate is glucose. Simple sugars that are found in foods include sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruit), and lactose (found in milk). Not all simple carbs are bad. Natural simple carbs in fruit and milk are perfectly healthy. Low-fat or non-fat dairy such as yoghurt, milk and cottage cheese are healthy food choices and rich sources of calcium. Although fruits and (fresh) fruit juices are healthy and packed with minerals and vitamins, it is probably best to eat it them in moderation, as complex carbs such as vegetables are a superior food source if weight loss is your goal, especially if you are carbohydrate sensitive. Probably the best time to ingesting fruit is before and after your workouts.

So, if not all simple carbohydrates are ‘bad’, which ones are? Sugar (sucrose)! If you wanna lose weight, stay away from sugar.

Complex Starchy Carbohydrates

(e.g. rice, wholemeal,pasta)

Complex carbohydrates are also made up of sugars, but the sugar molecules are strung together to form longer, more complex chains. Complex starchy carbohydrates include whole grains, peas and beans, which are rich in vitamins, minerals an fiber. The problem with complex starch carbs is that often they are refined.

Refined carbohydrates are foods where machinery has been used to remove the high fibre parts (the bran and the germ) from the grain. When a complex carb is refined it loses it complex structure and thus all the properties that made it a healthy choice. Instead it takes on the properties of a simple carbohydrate and is processed by the body in the same way. White rice, white flour, white bread, sugary cereals, and pasta, noodles and pretty much anything made from white flour are all examples of refined carbohydrates. You should stay away from refined carbs, as much as you should stay away from sugar.

Stick to unrefined complex carbohydrates. They still contain the WHOLE grain, including the bran and the germ. Thus, they are higher in fibre and will keep you feeling fuller for longer – great for weight loss. Examples include whole-grain rice, wholemeal bread, porridge oats and whole-wheat pasta.

Complex Fibrous Carbohydrates

(e.g. most vegetables)

Fibrous carbs are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other nutrients and tend to be green vegetables. These are full of fiber, which is the indigestible portion of plant material (i.e. vegetables). This means that much of the food passes straight through the gut and is not absorbed, thus they are great ‘colon cleansers’ and are essential for keeping the digestive process running clean and healthily! Even better, fibrous carbohydrates are very low in calories and it is virtually impossible to overeat on green vegetables. Some vegetable are so low in calories they contain less calories than it requires to eat them e.g. celery.

High Glycemic Carbs

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of the speed at which a carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels. From this, a high glycemic carb is one which raises blood sugar levels very quickly. The spike in blood sugar creates the insulin response which means that your body will produce high amounts of insulin to return your blood sugar back to normal levels. This is done by converting all the glucose into fat which gets stored in your body. This results in low blood sugars and the craving for simple carbs. Examples of high GI carbs include potatoes, corn, carrots, bagels, white bread, and gatorade (good to consume post workout with a protein shake.

Low Glycemic Carbs

Low Glycemic Carbs cause a smaller rise in blood sugar. Low GI carbs are preferred when losing weight, but not the only choice. High GI carbs can be used when mixed with protein and healthy fats. Some examples of low GI carbs include plums, peas and spinach.

Refined (Processed) Carbs

Refined carbs are products that have been altered to increase shelf life. These types of carbs are found in frozen, canned and boxed items. Key words to look for on packaging to determine if the carbs are processed are words such as rolled, bleached, dehydrated and partially hydrogenated. Examples of these types of carbs include white bread, pasta and cookies.

Unrefined Carbs

Unrefined carbs are foods that are in their natural state. Oranges are unrefined while orange juice is refine.

Carbs to Avoid while Dieting

While trying to lose weight, it is good to avoid most processed foods such as pasta, white rice, fruit juice, sugar loaded fat free yogurt, most crackers, cookies, pastries, white bread, chips, pretzels, bagels, sports drinks, soft drinks, and candy. Once you have dieted and lost weight successfully, these carbs can be re-admitted into your daily diet in moderation.

Carbs to Moderate

Many of the most popular diet plans tell you to avoid starchy carbs and high glycemic carbs but they do serve a purpose. If you're working out your body needs them for energy and they also help your body burn fat. There are 3 simple rules when it comes to starchy and high glycemic carbs:

Limit yourself to two servings a day of each

Eat them in the first half of your day. Always combine with protein. Doing this allows you to eat some of the foods you like and still lose weight. For example: In the first half of your day you can have eggs and potatoes for breakfast, fruit salad and protein shake for a snack, and tuna with veggies, balsamic vinegar & olive oil in half a whole wheat pita for lunch. In the afternoon you could eat whey protein shake & 1 apple for a snack, plus a chicken breast and spinach & tomato salad for dinner.

Carbs You Can Indulge

Not many people are into eating greens and high fiber cereal (13g of more per serving) but these are the carbs the help you feel full, have the most nutrients, and really boost metabolism so indulge all you want.

Cycle Your Carbs

Another great strategy is to vary your carb grams based on your activity level. On the days you're lifting heavy and doing a lot of cardio you can allow yourself a little more carbs than on the days you don't work out at all. But don't use this as an excuse to indulge your chocolate cake fantasies. All this means is that you can eat an extra piece of fruit or an extra serving of brown rice. If you stick to these simple rules you will have no problem shedding those pounds without feeling too deprived.