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Good health - Energy

Energy - The best food type to give you more energy is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates from our diet give us the most readily available source of energy. One gram will provide up to 17kJ (kilojoules) of energy. To give you an idea how much that is in terms of what we need, eight hours of sleep will use up 2,400kJ just to keep the heart beating, the lungs breathing, the body warm, the brain functioning at an unconscious level and the various chemical changes taking place that support life; this is known as our basal metabolism.

There's two sorts of digestible carbohydrates: simple and complex. The more complex they are, the longer they take to digest and the more slowly the energy is released. The simple carbohydrates consist of sugars: sucrose from sugar cane and beet, glucose and fructose from fruits and honey, maltose which is found in beer, and lactose from milk All of these are easily digested and enter the bloodstream rapidly to provide quick energy sources.

It takes approximately 71b(3kg) sugar cane to make 1lb (0.5kg) refined sugar, while a large beet will yield just one teaspoon. In order to extract our table sugar, therefore, most of the natural plant material is taken away, including all its fibre and all of its naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. All that is left are empty calories in the form of sucrose; no nourishment is provided. This is the problem. Nature never intended us to eat such stuff, yet the average Westerner consumes around 2lb (1 kg) of this concentrated sickliness per week. Our bodies are not biologically adapted to cope with it and the consequences include all sorts of metabolic problems in addition to tooth decay and obesity. And do not be misled into believing that brown sugar is better for you; a lot of it is simply white sugar, dyed brown with caramel.

If we take in more energy than we need in the form of simple carbohydrates, then the body will store it as glycogen in the liver for later conversion into glucose, or as fat under the skin and around the abdomen. This is why sugar causes obesity. We were never meant to saturate ourselves with the sort of concentrated doses of energy that sugar provides. Of course it makes us fat. Take your sugar in the form that nature intended, from fruits.

Weight gain, however, does not generally occur with the other sort of carbohydrates - the complex carbohydrates. These are very good for us and are found in whole cereals (such as wholemeal flour and brown rice), peas, potatoes, beans and lentils. You can eat all of these, knowing that they are nourishing you and providing you with a well- regulated and gradual release of energy.

There is yet another form of carbohydrate: dietary fibre. Although this is not a nutrient as such, it is now considered to be very important for our health. Basically it is made up of the structural cell walls of plants consisting largely of cellulose. Humans do not produce or take in enzymes that can digest cellulose, so this roughage reaches the intestine without having been absorbed by the body. The colon contains various beneficial bacteria that can utilize some of the plant cell walls and produce some fatty acids from them. However, most importantly, the roughage adds bulk to the waste matter here, which speeds it on its way through the gut, so preventing the accumulation of unhealthy bacteria. It also helps the contents of the intestine to retain water, which softens the stools. This way constipation is avoided, along with many other diseases of the bowel, some very serious, such as cancer of the colon.

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