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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are carbohydrates and why are the important?

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    The Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF) is a not-for-profit company supported by The University of Sydney and JDRF (Australia). GIF is committed to providing Australians with … View Profile

    Carbohydrates are one of the most important sources of energy for our bodies and are mainly found in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains & legumes) or in foods made from plant sources.

    Carbohydrates take two forms namely starches (such as potatoes, cereals, bread, and pasta) and sugars such as table sugar (sucrose), milk sugar (lactose), and fruit sugar (fructose).
    All carbohydrates are eventually broken down by the body into glucose, which is:

     A universal fuel for most organs and tissues in our bodies
     The only fuel source for our brain, red blood cells and a growing foetus, and
     The main source of energy for our muscles during strenuous exercise

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    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Carbohydrates are all about energy and are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, and dairy products. Your body uses these foods to make glucose, which is your body's main energy source. Glucose is a type of sugar that can be used right away for energy or stored away to be used later. Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs and are a good source of many vitamins and minerals. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. The best carbohydrates are those that contain a lot of fibre, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These types of carbohydrates take longer to break down into glucose and give you the most nutrients along with your calories. Refined carbohydrates are sometimes referred to as “bad” carbohydrates. These are carbohydrates that have been processed to remove parts of the grain and have had sugar added. Common examples of refined or processed carbohydrates are white bread, cakes, and biscuits.
    Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fibres found in most foods. While they are perhaps most famous for their role in fueling our body's energy needs, carbohydrates (often referred to as ”carbs“) actually serve a wide variety of purposes in the body, including regulation of digestion, enabling of communication between cells, and support of immune functions.
    Carbohydrates are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which are arranged into small units called sugars, or monosaccharides. Small carbohydrates, like glucose or sucrose (table sugar) are composed of one or two sugar units, respectively, and are the molecules that give food a sweet taste. These molecules are sometimes called ”simple sugars“ because they are small (only one or two units), and are quickly digested, providing immediate energy to the body.
    Larger carbohydrate molecules, which include fibres and starches, are composed of at least twenty or more monosaccharides linked together. These large carbohydrates, called polysaccharides (poly=many) may contain up to several hundred monosaccharides linked together in different ways. Another term commonly used to describe carbohydrates is oligosaccharides, a type of carbohydrate molecule that is in between polysaccharides and monosaccharides in size, and features three to twenty monosaccharides bonded together. You might also hear the term ”disaccharides" when carbs are mentioned, and this term refers to molecules that contain two simple sugars

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