Soccer Fuel

The mere mention of the word carbohydrate invokes much debate among various people offering nutrition ‘advice’. Many ‘diets’ avoid breads and cereal foods such as pasta and rice, with some going so far as restricting all sources of carbohydrate.…which is quite frankly, dangerous. So what exactly is this controversial little nutrient, and more to the point, do we need it or not?
Carbohydrates are a group of molecules produced by plants.  Although a wide variety of carbohydrates exist in nature, the most important in human nutrition are glucose, fructose and galactose. These three molecules can be considered basic building blocks; they form chains and branches with each other in many different combinations to form a variety of carbohydrates. Sucrose, or table sugar for example, is the product of glucose and fructose linked together.  Simple and complex carbohydrates are made from these same basic molecules, complex carbs just have longer chains with fancier branching!
Dietary sources of carbohydrate vary from simple sweeteners such as cane sugar, honey and syrup to complex starches like grains and cereals  (corn, wheat, oats, rice) and vegetables (corn, beans, potatoes). Fruits contain the natural sugar fructose; even milk has some carbohydrate in the form of lactose. Regardless of the source or complexity of the carbohydrate, the digestive system breaks it down to the simple sugar glucose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, glucose provides critical fuel for the brain, central nervous system, muscles and tissues.
While some adults find low carbohydrate diets useful to help shed a few kilograms, avoiding carbs for extended periods of time puts people at risk of nutrient deficiencies. Consider again the dietary sources of carbs…..cereals, grain, fruits, vegetables, milk. As well as providing a major source of energy, these foods also contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Carbohydrates, in their whole, unprocessed form, are an important component of a balanced diet. Children need carbs to fuel their growing bodies and energy for Ginger Sport soccer! Adults need them too, for everyday maintenance of cells and energy to move. Because they are so energy dense, choose your carbs carefully. Rather than highly processed, nutrient poor sources like white bread, biscuits, cakes and chocolate, go for wholegrain breads & cereals and fresh fruit & veg. As well as providing a rich source of energy and nutrients, they are full of fibre which fills our bellies and keeps the bowels happy.
Mainstream media is full of people telling us what to eat, especially when it comes to carbs. Be vigilant and aware of the credibility of the information source. Accredited Practising Dietitians and Accredited Nutritionists are trained in food science and human nutrition and are your food and nutrition experts. Please contact Andrea at or for further information.
Andrea Cruickshank APD AN

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