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Home  »  Healthy Nutrition  »  About Healthy Nutrition  »  The Elements of a Healthy Diet  »  Carbohydrates

About Healthy Nutrition

The Elements of a Healthy Diet


Carbohydrates, which include cellulose, starches, sugars and many other compounds are the greatest source of energy. They are divided into starches and sugars.


The most common simple sugars are glucose, fructose and galactose. The sugar occurs in many plants and fruits, the most important being sucrose, which is obtained from sugar cane or sugar beet. Indian jaggery and raw sugar cane are the healthiest and easiest substitutes for white sugar.

Major sources of sugar in the diet are sugar added to food and drink, soft drinks and sweets. Sugar is also added to a wide range of processed foods. Sugar provides calories and no other nutrients. If you fill up on sugary foods, you are more likely to be at risk of tooth decay and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Starches are converted into sugars in the body and are found principally in plant foods: pulses, tubers (like potatoes), grains and some roots (like carrots). They are also known as "complex carbohydrates". Starch is the plant's energy store. Highly refined starches like white flour, white rice or corn flour have as little nutritional value as sugars. Unrefined starches such as beans, potatoes, wholegrain or brown flours are a good source of protein and contain a wide range of minerals and vitamins. Millet, for example, is an excellent source of iron.

Any carbohydrates can give the body energy. However, different types of carbohydrate affect energy levels in different ways. Sugar carbohydrates tend to give a sudden burst of energy followed by a drop whereas complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy over a longer period of time and prevent drastic swings in blood sugar level. Excellent sources of complex carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, pulses (lentils, beans, barley, etc.), whole grains like brown rice, oat, teff, wheat berries and seeds. It is recommended to get at least 60% of our daily calorie intake from complex carbohydrates, preferably unrefined.

14 September, 2019

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