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Are Carbohydrates Good or Bad?

We think carbohydrates are good!

Carbohydrates get such a bad rap. Ever had a chat to someone looking for a bit of a health kick and they turn to you, put their hand on your shoulder and say, “We’ve cut out carbs so we’re going to be fine”. If this seems a little bit too simple, you’re right. Throughout this chapter we’ll go through how carbohydrates work within the body and if they’re as scary as everyone makes them out to be.

Carbohydrates are what is known as a Macronutrient. Things like Protein and Fat also fall into this category and these all play a large role in our energy levels, but lets focus on Carbohydrates for now. Carbohydrates are divided into 3 main groups of Saccharides which when translated, essentially means sugar. Ahh sugar! We’ve listed the 3 below but don’t worry if you don’t memorise it, it can be a lot to get your head around.

Monosaccharides: These are the simplest form of carbohydrates as the name suggests, Mono = 1.

Oligosaccharides: These are Saccharides that are made up of a small group of Monosaccharides.

Polysaccharides: These are created when there’re 10 or more Monosaccharides linked together.

Now that we’ve learnt some new and rather large words we’ll continue to explain what role Carbohydrates play within the body. When Carbohydrates are consumed, the body breaks them down into the Saccharides that we discussed above. In fact, a Polysaccharide is broken down the instant it lands in our mouth through an enzyme known as Salivary Amylase but this only counts for 20% of the breakdown and if you like to watch T.V whilst you eat and shovel your food down your throat……then you’ll be lucky to break it down through your saliva at all.

Once the food makes it to your stomach it mixes in with the rest of your meal and becomes what is known as Chyme (Essentially a pile up of food in your stomachs) before it makes its way into the Small Intestine before pancreatic amylase (breaking down of carbohydrates) take over. These Carbohydrate chains will be broken down into Disaccharides (2 sugars) by the equivalent enzyme eg. Maltase breaks down maltose and sucrase breaks down sucrose.

As it passes into the liver, any leftover Glucose will be turned into Triglycerides (Fat molecules) and work their way through the blood until they are gathered up by our cells.

The thing with Carbohydrates is that if they’re consumed correctly, there’s absolutely no reason to fear them. Consumed incorrectly and then we may have an issue.

We were going to leave it there but that would be the equivalent of someone hanging off the edge of a cliff being told to wait whilst their friend takes a call. We won’t do that to you. To break it down nice and simply, there are Carbohydrates with a high Glycemic Index and Carbohydrates with a low Glycemic Index (measures the speed and impact any given food can have on our blood sugar). As you can imagine, if you sat down and ate a bagel (filled with sugar) compared to eating a potato (a lot of starchy carbohydrates), the bagel would most likely consume more carbohydrates, give you a high and then leave you flat as a tack. The potato on the other hand will give you a slow release of energy without the high but also without the low.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the body of a 70kg human being carries roughly 90000 Calories worth of Fat but on 2000 Calories of Carbohydrates? You can add this keeper to your next trivia night!

Justin Beard Pn1


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