Carbohydrates are essential for the human body. They occur naturally in grains, nuts, milk, vegetables, fruit, seeds, and legumes. When looking for a proper diet, people often make the mistake of focusing on carbs that turn out to be mere providers of calories. In contrast, the focus should be on the nutritionally useful ones.

There are three categories of carbohydrates.
Sugar, is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It is of three types – fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose), and milk sugar (lactose).
Starch is a complex carbohydrate in which multiple sugar units are bonded together. These occur naturally in vegetables, grains, cooked dry beans, peas, etc.
Fiber is yet another form of complex carbohydrate.

Foods are often measured on a glycemic index. The higher the food on the index, the higher the potential of raising the blood sugar level. Weight-loss diets typically recommend limiting foods that are high on the glycemic index. Some examples of such food are potatoes, white bread, snack foods, and desserts containing refined flour. Many healthy foods — such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products — are lower on the glycemic index.

These are the body’s main fuel source. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of the daily calorie requirement.  Starch and other complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. It is only then that they can meet the body’s needs for energy.

Carbs help boost our mood (Christensen 1993). The impact of complete withdrawal of dietary carbohydrates in the diet has been studied. Dieter volunteers with low carbohydrate diets were observed to perform worse on memory-based tasks than American Dietary Association (ADA) dieters. The impairments were temporary and got ameliorated with the reintroduction of carbohydrates.

However, low-carbohydrate dieters were also reported to show less confusion and responded faster during attention vigilance tasks when compared to ADA dieters. This establishes a link between carbohydrate consumption and cognitive behavior (D’Anci et al., 2009).

Volunteers who consumed breakfast cereal (a source of carbohydrates) showed a more positive mood at the start of test sessions. They also performed better on a spatial memory task and felt calmer at the end of the test session compared to volunteers who did not consume breakfast (Smith et al., 1999).

Additional reading references:

  1. Nutrition Facts- a guide to good health
  2. Natural Solutions for Obesity
  3. Natural Solutions for Diabetes

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