A sensible approach to carbs

Low carb. High carb. Good carb. Bad carb. It sounds like the beginning of something by Dr. Seuss. If only dietary carbohydrates were as simple as a children’s book! The reality? “Good carb” is one of those nutrition buzzwords that leads to a lot of confusion.

Understanding the role of carbohydrates can help you eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight — both important ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Here’s what you need to know.

Carbs 101
There are only three nutrients that contribute calories to the diet: fat, protein and carbohydrates. Yup, that’s it. Just three. Most foods contain a mix of these nutrients — for example, yogurt contains carbs, protein and fat.

Carbs are the body’s main source of energy; carbs from food turn into fuel for the body. Some nutrition textbooks divide carbs into “simple” (sugars) and “complex” (starches and fibres). Simple carbs, like jam and honey, are broken down quickly by the body, causing a faster rise in blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, such as oatmeal, have more fibre, so are digested more slowly and don’t raise blood sugar levels as much. This keeps you full for longer and keeps blood sugar more stable.

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