Understanding Food Labels – Ingredient Series – Carbohydrates 101


Posted 6.1.10 | Sarah O'Brien

This month we will be continuing with our ingredient series, focusing on carbohydrates and understanding food labels. In this post, I wanted to give you all an overview of carbohydrates, what they are and why they are an important part of our body and everyday life.

Carbohydrates are found in most foods. The body takes in carbohydrates from what we eat and then breaks them down into simple sugars, which are a major source of the body’s energy. There are two main carbohydrates found in foods: simple and complex.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are also known as simple sugars. Your body finds simple sugars in processed sugar, such as the sugar in candy.

However, simple sugars are not just found in sugary treats – they also exist in many nutritious foods! Fruits and milk both contain simple sugars which provide your body with vitamins and other important nutrients.

Simple sugars are often processed by the body quickly which can leave you feeling hungry sooner. This is why complex carbohydrates are so important.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are also known as starches. Grains, such as bread, crackers, pasta, and rice, are all starches. Much like simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates can exist in different forms, such as refined grains and unrefined grains.

Refined grains are processed, which removes much of their nutrients and fiber. Some examples of refined grains include white rice or white bread.

Unrefined grains, such as brown rice or whole grain bread, are not processed and still have plenty of healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fiber is not only important because it fills you up and doesn’t leave you hungry, but it also helps to regulate your digestive system.

The body processes complex carbohydrates at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates. This is why you feel satisfied and have energy over a longer period of time.

Your body needs carbohydrates, but it is important to remember to limit carbohydrates with lots of simple sugars. This is because simple sugars can cause your blood sugar level to jump quickly and over an extended period of time may lead to health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. So don’t forget to focus on complex carbohydrates.

Now that we know the basics of carbohydrates, look out for Christine’s blog next week when she will continue this topic to discuss the carbs found in Neocate!

- Sarah

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.