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What are carbohydrates and do they make us fat?

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies. They are the sugars, starches and dietary fibre that occur in plant foods and dairy products. Foods that are high in carbohydrates include: bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, rice, and cereals. We need carbohydrates for our bodies to move, grow and function.

Everyone needs to eat carbohydrate in one for or another. As a general rule, we should eat between 45-65% of our total calories in the form of carbohydrates each day. For a 2,000 calories, this is roughly 250g of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates in foods occur in various forms, including the following:

  • Dietary fibre - a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot easily digest. It occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. This is essential for good digestive health and bowel movements.

  • Sugars - which include sugars that occur naturally in foods, such as dairy products, as well as added sugars, which are common in baked goods, sweets and desserts. The body very easily digests and absorbs these sugars and uses it for energy.

  • Sugar alcohols - a type of carbohydrate that the body does not fully absorb. They have a sweet taste and fewer calories than sugar. Sugar alcohols are added to foods as reduced-calorie sweeteners, such as in diet 'low-calorie' drinks, baked goods and sweets.

All of the different forms of carbohydrates provide energy for the body in one way or another. What we do need to focus on is ensuring we are getting plenty of dietary fibre. This ensures healthy digestion and maintains gut health. The body uses this fibre to expel all of the unwanted waste and keeps us regular. Good sources of dietary fibre include:

  • All types of beans

  • Bananas

  • Apples

  • Brussel Sprouts

  • Brocoli

  • Apples

  • Chia Seeds

  • Almonds

  • Avocados

  • Brown rice

  • Berries

Do carbohydrates make us fat?

Some have argued that the global rise in obesity is linked to a high intake of carbohydrates. However, a number of factors contribute to rising obesity rates including:

  • Lower physical activity levels

  • Greater availability of ultraprocessed food or “junk food”

  • A lack of access to affordable fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables

  • Oversized portions, which increase a person’s calorie intake

  • Fewer hours of sleep

  • Genetic factors

  • Stress and emotional factors

Essentially, if we eat more calories than we use, then we do gain weight. What is important is that we do moderate exercise regularly, make good choices with the food we eat and not over indulge in the sugar based carbohydrates. Using meal plans and tracking the food you eat will support your slim transformation journey.

Let's keep eating plenty of those fruits and vegetables!

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