Energy is needed for normal body functions including maintaining body temperature, breathing, digestion, thinking, exercising, and managing the heart rate. That energy comes from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which the body uses as its primary and most efficient source of energy. Carbohydrates are the only energy source the brain, nerves, and developing red cells can use for energy. Protein and fat are used as sources of energy only when carbohydrates are depleted.
Complex carbohydrates include potatoes, oats, corn, peas, whole wheat pasta, beans, and brown rice and are excellent sources of energy. They are also a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Complex carbohydrates contain fiber which will slow down the release of glucose.
Simple carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar) raise glucose level, giving the body a burst of energy that burns quickly, causing a sudden drop in glucose levels, making us feel tired and hungry. We then have a sense of needing more fuel and crave more carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are of little nutritional value. Contrary to belief, carbohydrates are not fattening, having only 4 calories per gram. A five ounce potato has just 80 calories.
Are all carbohydrates bad? Absolutely not! Eating complex carbohydrates will slowly release glucose for the body to use. Since complex carbohydrates contain fiber, they will make us feel full quicker, and we will eat fewer calories. They also are a good source of vitamins and nutrients. Avoid simple carbohydrates whenever possible. Simple carbohydrates release glucose in the body fast and burn quickly, making us feel tired afterwards. They generally are higher in calories and have little nutritional value.