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Carbohydrates are made up from sugars and have two main groupings, simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starches). As a nutrient, carbohydrates perform the important function of acting as the main source of energy for the body. Carbohydrates are found in milk, bread, pasta, rice, sweets, cereals, fruits and vegetables.

Simple Carbohydrates are made up of single sugars called Monosaccharides or two sugars joined together called Disaccharides. Their composition and structure means they are broken down quickly in the mouth and stomach. When eaten alone in excessive quantities they can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar resulting from their quick absorption into the blood stream, a sharp rise in insulin levels follows, which in turn causes the sugar to be converted to fat. Another way of explaining this potential problem is that a diet high in sugars is likely to be high in calories, and these excess calories will be stored as fat in the body. Also, sugary foods such as soft drinks, chocolates, cakes, ladoo, jalebi and bakhlva are low in nutritional value and vitamins and the main culprits in tooth decay. Try and limit your intake of sugary foods and when you desire something sweet to eat, choose a scrumptious fruit instead. Oranges, bananas, pears, apples have the added benefit of being rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Complex Carbohydrates consist of many sugars joined together. Also known as starchy carbohydrates, their makeup means they take longer to be broken down in the stomach. Therefore, the sugars are released and absorbed into the blood stream at a more gradual rate. Starchy carbohydrates are the body’s favourite source of fuel. This is mainly because glucose is the preferred source of energy for our muscles, organs and brain and the main flow of glucose stems from starch. Additionally, they are full of healthy nutrients like fibre, vitamins and minerals. Hence, starchy carbohydrates are a critical source of energy and should be consumed abundantly as part of a healthy diet. Pasta, rice, fruit, potatoes, cereals, beans, noodles, bread and vegetables have plenty of starchy carbohydrates.