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Carbohydrates, or 'carbs' are often perceived to be 'bad', but in actual fact they're a crucial component of a healthy, balanced diet. Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that carbohydrate based foods make up the greatest portion of your daily energy intake.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are starches and sugars found in foods that are broken down in the body into glucose to be used as energy. Carbohydrates are the primary and preferred energy source for humans and should account for 45-65% of your daily energy intake. Carbohydrate dense foods include 'simple carbohydrates' such as cakes, sweets, potatoes and white bread, and 'complex carbohydrates' such as brown/whole grain bread and rice, porridge and other whole grain products.

Carbohydrates provide approximately 16kJ of energy per gram.

Glycaemic Index

The 'Glycaemic Index', or GI,  of a product refers to how quickly it is broken down in the digestive system, and how quickly the energy (glucose) is released into the blood stream. Low GI foods release energy slowly over a longer period of time, resulting in balanced blood glucose levels. High GI foods tend to be broken down quickly and trigger a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a quick drop.

Low GI foods help to keep you feeling energized for a longer period of time, and prevents the highs, lows and 'sugar crashes' associated with a diet high in sugary, simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates tend to be low in GI and so whole grain products are the best carbohydrate source for energy and satiety. 

For more nutrition information visit the Australian Governments Eat for Health website.