Carbohydrates, or carbs, are essential nutrients which your body converts into glucose to give you energy. They are a type of macronutrient and can be fibres, starches, or sugars. Other macronutrients include fat and protein.
There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products and they are less likely to spike your blood sugar than simple carbs (sugars).
Starches are complex carbs and contain vitamins and minerals. It takes the body longer to digest these carbs meaning they don’t spike your sugar levels and can mean you feel fuller for longer. You can find starchy carbs in vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, and wholegrain products e.g. brown rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread and pasta.
Fibre is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and wholegrain products. It is a complex healthy carb that your body cannot break down. This means it helps with digestion, as well as regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol. You can get more fibre in your diet with nuts and seeds, beans and legumes e.g. chickpeas, and lentils, and in fruits, especially those with edible skins or seeds – think apples, peaches, and berries.
Sugars are a simple carb. Your body breaks these down quickly which means your blood sugar level rises quickly, giving you a burst of energy, before falling and leaving you feeling tired. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and milk have naturally-occurring sugars but there are also added sugars which are found in sweets, canned fruit, and fizzy drinks.