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What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. Carbohydrates are divided into refined and unrefined.

Refined carbohydrates refer to foods that have been altered by processing, so that the fibre containing parts (the bran and the germ) have been removed. Examples of refined carbohydrates are white bread, sugary cereals, pasta and noodles made from white flour.


Unrefined carbohydrates consist of the whole grain (the bran and the germ) and so are higher in fibre than unrefined sources. These foods make you feel fuller for longer. Examples include wholegrain rice, wholemeal bread and porridge oats.


Not all carbohydrates are equal, they are broken down, absorbed by the body at different rates and have different effects on your blood sugar level. This is also known as the glycaemic index of a food.

Foods with a low glycaemic index are thought to have health benefits for people with diabetes.

Foods with a high glycaemic index are broken down more quickly and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Examples of high glycaemic index foods are white bread, sugar, sweets, sugary drinks and boiled white potatoes.


Foods with a low glycaemic index are broken down more slowly and cause slower rise in blood sugar. Examples of low glycaemic index foods are pasta, sweet potatoes, basmati rice, pulses, beans, nuts, lentils, wholegrain cereals, vegetables, fruit (such as apples, apricots, peaches and pears).


The glycaemic index of a food depends upon a number of factors, such as food processing and cooking, so you can't determine a foods glycaemic index just by looking at it.

Unrefined carbohydrates tend to have a lower glycaemic index, so try to incorporate these foods into your diet.

Why do we need food?

What are calories?

What is fat?

What are proteins?

Vitamins and minerals

What is fibre?

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