Carbohydrates – the energy providers

To celebrate the launch of our new Health Swap app, over the coming weeks we will be posting blogs all about nutrition. This blog will look at carbohydrates and explain more about the potentially tricky food source.  

Carbohydrates are the energy providers for our bodies, but unfortunately they can be tricky customers if too much of the wrong type is consumed. There is a lot of interest in the world of nutrition around low carbohydrate diets at the moment. This article will not go in to too much depth on this type of diet, for a healthy and balanced diet carbohydrate consumption should match the level of activity of the person.

There are 2 main types of carbohydrates, slow and fast releasing. Slow releasing carbohydrates release energy over an extended period of time, they come from foods such as sweet potato, butternut squash, oats, and wholemeal variations of pasta and bread. Slow releasing carbs are an important part of a healthy diet, however, the amount consumed should match the amount of energy being expended by the individual. Fast releasing carbs do exactly what they say on the tin, they release energy very quickly, they come from sources containing high quantities of granulated sugar, such as sweets, cakes, biscuits etc. Excessive quantities of these can lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity, both of which are more common in people with Down’s syndrome.

We can’t discuss sugar and carbohydrates without talking about insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for processing carbohydrates and making sure excess sugar is stored within the body ready for a rainy day. When we consume fast releasing carbohydrates (sugar) there is a big spike in insulin, this is the body’s way of processing the new fuel, and this also leads to an increase in our blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, after a short period of time we get a big drop in blood sugar levels, making us feel tired and lethargic. Difficulties ensue if we then reach for another sugary treat, as we then get in to a yo-yo effect with our blood sugar, if this continues over a long period of time then this can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Sugary foods should only be consumed as a treat, but slow releasing carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet.

Fibre is also an important part of a healthy diet, helping to maintain gut health and manage energy release. Fibre can come from slow releasing carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes and should be consumed daily. A lack of fibre can often be the culprit for gastrointestinal issues.

For more information on the Health Swap app please click here or email