Carbohydrates found in wholesome bread, fresh vegetables and pasta are our body’s main source of energy and an essential part of any healthy diet, but they don’t always get the credit they deserve. Discover the different types of carbs and find out what’s really on your plate.

You don’t need to feel guilty about eating carbs – they are the fuel that powers our bodies and typically we should aim to get around half of our daily energy from them. Our muscles and brain crave carbohydrates to function properly and starving yourself of these essential nutrients can do more harm than good. But what exactly are carbs and where can we find them?

Choose your carbs carefully

“Carbohydrates are a vital part of any balanced diet because after eating they are converted into glucose, providing a valuable source of energy for the whole body. Your body can also store glucose in your liver and muscles and save it for later. Not all carbs are created equally and some are more beneficial than others, which is why it’s important to choose your carbs carefully depending on your lifestyle,” says Sanna-Maria Hongisto, a Nutrition expert at Fazer.

There are two main types of carbs that you need to know about: simple and complex. Complex carbs, which include also fibre, are generally considered better for you and are found in foods that contain wholegrain cereals, oats, nuts, as well as fruit, berries and root vegetables. Their complex molecular structure means that it takes longer for the body to break down, giving a gentle release of energy and keeping our blood sugar levels stable.

Simple carbs are the ones found in sugary foods and fizzy drinks. They are converted into glucose quicker than complex carbs and provide the body with an almost instant source of energy. These can be useful for regaining energy after an intense workout when your muscle glycogen levels are low and need to be restored, but on a daily basis it’s recommended that you stick to complex carbs for sustainable energy levels.

Versatility is the key to a balanced diet

Nordic Nutrition recommendations advise that carbs should make up 45-60% of our daily energy intake to keep our bodies healthy and the brain needs at least 130 grams of carbs to function effectively. Sanna-Maria says, “The key to a balanced diet is versatility. It’s important to eat healthy to assure you get the essential vitamins and other nutrients that your body needs. Think about where you’re getting your carbs from and check the packaging on your bread for fibre, whole grains and seeds as those make your bread more nutritionally fulfilling for your body.”