14 April 2011

Carbs: the 55% majority winner

Carbohydrates add taste, texture and variety to the diet, and they are the single most important source of food energy.

Carbohydrates add taste, texture and variety to the diet, and they are the single most important source of food energy.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation (FAO/WHO) recently published a report on Carbohydrates in Human Nutrition.

  • The lower energy density of high-carbohydrate diets, as carbohydrates have less calories weight for weight than fat. Fibre-rich foods also tend to be bulky and therefore physically filling.
  • Studies have found that carbohydrates work quickly to aid satiety, therefore those consuming high-carbohydrate diets are less likely to overeat.
  • It has also been suggested that very little dietary carbohydrate is converted to body fat mainly because it is a very inefficient process for the body. Instead, carbohydrate tends to be preferentially used by the body for energy.

  • The many health benefits of dietary carbohydrates should be recognised and promoted. Carbohydrates provide more than energy alone.
  • An optimum diet contains at least 55% of energy from carbohydrates for all those over two years of age.
  • A wide range of carbohydrate-containing foods should be consumed so that the diet is sufficient in essential nutrients and dietary fibre.

Class Sub-group Components Foods
Sugars Monosaccharides Glucose, galactose, fructose Honey, fruit
  Disaccharides Sucrose, lactose Table sugar, milk
Oligosaccharides Malto-oligosaccharides Maltodextrins  
  Other oligosaccharides Raffinose, stachyose, fructo-oligosaccharides Soya, artichokes, onions
Polysaccharides Starch Amylose, amylopectin Rice, bread, potatoes, pasta
  Non-starch polysaccharides Cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectins, hydrocolloids All fruits and vegetables

  • WHO/FAO (1998). Carbohydrates in human nutrition. FAO food and nutrition paper no. 66. FAO, Rome.
  • Hellerstein, M.K., Christiansen, M., Kaempfer, S. et al (1991). Measurement of de novo hepatic lipogenesis in humans using stable isotopes. J. Clin. Invest. 87: 1841-1852.


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