Understanding Carbohydrates: A Guide for Students in Nutrition and Health Programs

nutrition and health programs

If you’ve ever felt confused about carbohydrates, we can’t say we blame you. Few nutrients seem to attract as much conflicting claims as carbohydrates do. You may have heard some people claim that it’s best to avoid carbohydrates at all costs, while others will tell you a high-carb diet is actually healthiest! On top of that, you may have heard terms like complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, total carbohydrates, and so on.

We’re here to clear up some of the confusion. If you’re considering enrolling in a health and nutrition program, here’s a small taste of what carbohydrates are and why they are important.

Carbohydrates Are the Fuel that Keeps Your Body Going

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients, along with fat and protein. All three macronutrients are needed in large quantities by the body. However, out of all the macronutrient groups, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the human body. When digested, carbohydrates are converted into glucose, which can then be stored or used as energy.

Students in Nutrition and Health Programs Should Know the Two Types of Carbohydrates

Not all carbohydrates are the same. In fact, there are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are called simple because they don’t require the body to expend much energy converting them into glucose. You can find simple carbohydrates in sugar, fruit, milk, and junk food.

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, require the body to work a bit harder converting the carbs into energy. Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, nuts, lentils, whole grains, beans, and fruit. Unfortunately, nutrition labels usually only list total carbohydrates, which is a combination of simple and complex carbs. However, if the label shows a high sugar content, that’s usually a sign that the food consists of primarily simple carbs. A diploma in nutrition can help you better determine which foods are likely to contain more simple or complex carbohydrates.

A diploma in nutrition can help you understand nutrition labels

A diploma in nutrition can help you understand nutrition labels

Are Some Carbohydrates Better or Worse for Nutrition?

If carbohydrates are so important for giving the body the energy it needs, then you may wonder why you keep hearing about “good carbs” and “bad carbs.” Good carbs mostly refer to complex carbohydrates. The reason complex carbohydrates are considered good is that because they are harder for the body to convert into energy, they tend to leave you feeling full for a long time. That makes it easier to control your appetite and food intake.

Bad carbs, on the other hand, usually refer to simple carbs, especially the ones found in processed foods like candy and soft drinks. As we mentioned, simple carbs don’t require the body to expend much energy converting them into glucose. As a result, you are more likely to feel hungry soon after eating foods rich in simple carbs.

Junk food is high in bad carbs and offers little nutritional value

Junk food is high in bad carbs and offers little nutritional value

Does that mean your future clients should avoid fruits that have simple carbs? Absolutely not! As graduates of nutrition and health programs know, fruits are filled with lots of nutrients that the body needs. Instead, it’s best to avoid foods with added sugars that contain little nutritional value.

Are you interested in a career in health and nutrition?

Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) to learn more about our nutrition diploma program in Ontario!