Macronutrients: Carbohydrates

Who can resist some fried potatoes, a good risotto or delicious pasta? What do all these foods have in common? They consist largely of carbohydrates, one of the 3 macronutrients in our diet. In the second article of this series I will explain what carbohydrates are, their effects on your body and what sources you should rely on for carbohydrates.

If you’ve missed the first article on macronutrients, you can read it here to learn more about protein: Macronutrients: Protein

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the major suppliers of energy in our diet. Depending on the composition, a distinction is made between single, double and multiple sugars (monosaccharides, diasaccharides, polysaccharides).

Carbohydrates: Effect

Simple sugars such as glucose can be converted into energy very quickly (the body does not have to break it down further) and leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Therefore, glucose is consumed during intense sports activities or if you are hypoglycemic. Simple sugar is an important source of energy for organs and muscles.

Double sugar consists of 2 sugar molecules. Examples include cane sugar or lactose (milk sugar). You may know double sugar as the “classic” sugar. High consumption of double sugar can lead to obesity or tooth decay and increases the risk of a heart attack.

Multiple sugar, as the name implies, consists of several molecules and is also known as complex carbohydrates. They are absorbed more slowly by the body which causes the blood sugar level to increase more slowly. As a result, you feel a prolonged sense of satiety after consuming complex carbohydrates, which is why most of your consumed carbs should consist of multiple sugars. Complex carbohydrates contain a large amount of fiber and have positive effects on your digestion as well.

Generally, carbohydrates are a readily available source of energy in your body and are stored as glycogen in the muscles (about two-thirds) and liver (about one-third).

Carbohydrates: Sources

Simple sugar comes, as already mentioned, in glucose. It is also contained in fruits, honey or wheat flour products. Double sugar, for example, is the classic “sugar” and is also present in milk or dairy products.

Some foods containing complex carbohydrates are listed below:

  • Whole grain products
  • Brown rice
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Oatmeal

If you want to know more about macronutrients then read the last blogpost of this series here: Macronutrients: Fat.
Do you have further questions about carbohydrates and their effects? Let me know in the comments!
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