Foods that are high in carbohydrates include breads, pastas, beans, vegetables, whole grains, bran, cereals, processed baked goods, processed sugars, and fruits. The best source of “good” carbohydrates is vegetables, sprouted grains, beans, legumes,nuts and seeds (in moderation), and fruits. Eating vegetables that are nutrition dense and high in complex carbohydrates can help to prevent conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and nutrient deficiencies. Vegetables that are high in complex carbohydrates include: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, celery, sweet peppers, hot peppers, asparagus, turnips, zucchini, and tomatoes.
Carbohydrates play numerous roles in living things. They provide storage and transport of energy, assist in proper functioning of the immune system, and they also play major roles in fertilization, pathogenesis, blood clotting, and development.
The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially for the brain and nervous system. Diet and Health organizations recommend that carbohydrates should be the body’s main energy source. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s many functions such as jogging, breathing, thinking, and even digesting food. Glucose is the main component of carbohydrates and is used for energy. Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients for humans. The body can obtain all of its energy from protein and fats. However, the brain and neurons generally cannot burn fat and need glucose for energy. The body can make some glucose from a few of the amino acids in protein and also from triglycerides (fats).
Healthy carbohydrates also provide a large supply of fiber and nutrients that are essential for the body’s proper functioning. Based on the effects on risk of heart disease and obesity, the Institute of Medicine recommends that American and Canadian adults get between 40-65% of their dietary energy from carbohydrates. The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization jointly recommend that national dietary guidelines set a goal of 55-75% of total energy from carbohydrates, but only 10% should be from simple carbohydrates (sugars).
There are two basic forms of carbohydrates: Complex Carbohydrates (starches and fiber) and Simple Carbohydrates (sugars). Complex carbohydrates include legumes, vegetables, and whole grains. Simple carbohydrates include: fruits, dairy, some vegetables, and processed and refined sugars such as candy, soda beverages, syrups, and table sugar. Complex carbohydrates provide the most nutrients and least amount of sugar. They promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and many important phytonutrients. Simple carbohydrates such as fruits and dairy offer some nutrients and a higher content of sugars. Processed and refined sugars such as candy and soda are referred to as empty calories, because they offer little to no nutrition and can lead to excessive weight gain and other health problems.
Glycemic Index (GI) is a rating system that identifies a food’s ability to raise blood sugar levels on a scale of 0-100. A low glycemic index means that the food will raise blood sugar very little or not at all. A high glycemic index means that the food will cause blood sugar to raise above recommended levels. Complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index, while most Simple carbohydrates have a medium or high glycemic index. Refined sugars and processed foods with refined sugars have an extremely high glycemic index. Eating mostly foods that have a low glycemic index can reduce the risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Beans and Lentils are a good source of complex carbohydrates. They contain a great supply of plant protein, fiber, and many other nutrients. Nuts and seeds are another good source of complex carbohydrates, but they should be eaten in moderation due to their high fat content. Although whole grains contain complex carbohydrates and are much healthier than refined grains, they should be eaten in moderation due to gluten sensitivities and possible allergic reactions. In regards to acidity and alkalinity, whole grains such as wheat and rye (and anything with baker’s yeast or gluten) are acid forming. Sprouted grains contain complex carbohydrates and are also alkalizing to the body. When choosing whole grains with the best nutritional value opt for brown rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and sprouted grains.
Not getting enough carbohydrates can cause malnutrition and excessive intake of fats. The malnutrition occurs due to the body not getting enough calories. When fats are substituted in place of complex carbohydrates, excessive weight gain and nutrient deficiencies can occur.
Getting too many carbohydrates can cause excessive weight gain, which can lead too besity and other health problems.
Caution: Eating plenty of vegetables, sprouted grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits (in moderation) is the safest and healthiest way to get an adequate supply of healthy carbohydrates. Due to risk of toxicity, individuals should always consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider before starting doses of supplements. Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that you first consult with their pediatrician. Also, some supplements may interfere with medications. If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with your physician before taking any supplements. All supplements should be kept in childproof bottles and out of children’s reach.