Let us start with the basics:
Carbohydrates are a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissue. It includes sugars, starch and cellulose. Carbohydrates can be broken down and release energy in the form of glucose within the body.
To make it a little easier.. All vegetables, fruits, starches, dairy and sugars contain carbohydrates.
Some carbohydrates are better than other for the general health of a person. For example: veggies are definitely more beneficial than sugar as it contain, not only the glucose energy, but also fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some carbohydrates are also easier absorbed in the body compared to others. This is where the Glycemic Index comes to play. A low GI means that it takes longer to release the glucose energy in the body whereas the glucose energy of the high GI foods are released much quicker – causing a spike in your blood sugar.
Moving on to starch. Starch is an odourless, tasteless white substance occurring widely in plant tissue and obtained mainly from cereals and potatoes. Starch is classified according the biochemical structure thereof. It contributes more glucose energy and therefore can be the culprit of weight loss resistance. Starches include all grains, barley, wheat, and products thereof such as pasta, rice and breakfast cereals. There is a group of vegetables also classified as starch and these veggies include; potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut, corn, peas and legumes.
Getting to gluten… Gluten is the protein molecule found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and their products. Note that it is not found in the starchy vegetables. It is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Some people may be incredibly intolerant to gluten and should avoid the consumption thereof. Some people are a little sensitive to gluten but can manage to eat small quantities thereof.
If you suspect gluten intolerance, speak to your dietician on the management thereof!
Needless to say, carbohydrates are important to sustain life. It has multiple benefits including: digestive health, heart health, controlling blood sugar and providing the body with energy.
Proper selection of carbohydrates and controlled intake thereof may assist greatly with weight loss and management. Always choose the carbohydrates high in fiber and high in nutrients. And remember – the less processed a carbohydrate, the better!