The 3 Benefits of Carbohydrates for Children

Carbohydrates for children produce a series of benefits that are worth knowing. Keep reading to discover why to include them in their diet.
The 3 Benefits of Carbohydrates for Children

Last update: 14 June, 2022

Carbohydrates for children offer a number of health benefits that are worth knowing about. These nutrients should be part of the daily diet to maintain good health, but not all of them are equally important. As a general rule, it’s always advisable to prioritize complex carbohydrates, as they affect blood glucose levels to a lesser extent.

Before starting, it should be noted that many of the foods with a high carbohydrate content that are offered in the supermarket have an excessive level of refinement. An example of this is children’s cereals, because they are low in fiber and high in sugar. This could have a negative impact on the child’s metabolism, especially in sedentary conditions.

Benefits of carbohydrates for children

Here are the main benefits of carbohydrates for children. It’s worth mentioning that it’s not a good idea to suppress these nutrients in the diet of little ones, despite the bad reputation they have nowadays.

A child showing off his muscles.
The growth of children requires a complete, varied, and balanced diet. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that shouldn’t be missing in the diet of little ones. Of course, complex carbohydrates should be prioritized over refined carbohydrates.

1. They stimulate growth

Carbohydrates (more specifically glucose) are nutrients capable of activating one of the most anabolic pathways of human metabolism, the mTor pathway. This mechanism is crucial to ensure tissue growth, which is quite important in infancy. Therefore, an insufficient intake of carbohydrates by children could have a negative impact on their health in the medium term.

However, in addition to ensuring a sufficient intake of carbohydrates, it’s important to cover the requirements of the other essential nutrients to guarantee adequate growth. A deficit of other elements, such as vitamins, could cause other structural problems, as occurs in rickets.

2. They ensure a good energy status

The main function of carbohydrates is to serve as an energy substrate for high-intensity activities. For this reason, their consumption is recommended before exercise to achieve better performance. In fact, maintaining a carbohydrate deficit could precipitate the onset of fatigue and limit performance.

But in addition to the above, sugars contribute to good post-exercise recovery by stimulating the production of glycogen stores, which are the body’s glucose reserves. To maximize this process, it has been shown to be beneficial to consume these nutrients together with a significant dose of high biological value proteins. This also avoids the risk of further injury.

3. They can contribute to intestinal transit

Complex carbohydrates are usually accompanied by fiber, which offers several health benefits:

  1. They’re not digested in the intestine and increase the volume of the fecal bolus, accelerate transit and prevent constipation.
  2. They guarantee the survival of the “good” bacteria in the digestive tract that make up the microbiota.
  3. They delay the absorption of carbohydrates and this reduces the risk of high blood glucose levels.

It should be noted that we’re referring to complex carbohydrates, such as those contained in whole grains, nuts, oats, or yamani rice. Refined sugars in pastries or sweets don’t offer these beneficial effects.

When low-carbohydrate diets are considered, fiber intake is generally also limited. Each day, a minimum intake of 25 grams must be ensured, which is difficult to achieve in small children. In turn, when the diet exceeds the amount of simple sugars, intestinal fermentation, and stool dryness increase. In both contexts, intestinal transit slows down and favors constipation, chronic abdominal pain, and flatulence.

A little boy with abdominal pain.
Excess consumption of refined sugars can cause recurrent abdominal pain in children. However, regular consumption of complex sugars can promote the intake of the recommended dose of fiber.

Know the benefits of carbohydrates for children

As you’ve seen, carbohydrates are essential nutrients for health at any age. They must be present in the diet on a regular basis and balanced with other elements for the body to function optimally.

A lack of glucose can result in lower performance or increased fatigue. However, complex sugars (from vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) should always be prioritized over refined or ultra-processed sugars.

Finally, it should be noted that it’s important to ensure regular physical activity in children, prioritizing strength work. This way, sugars will be used as the main energy substrate, fat transformation and accumulation will be avoided, and several negative metabolic consequences will be prevented.

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  • Mao, Z., & Zhang, W. (2018). Role of mTOR in Glucose and Lipid Metabolism. International journal of molecular sciences19(7), 2043. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19072043
  • Alghannam, A. F., Gonzalez, J. T., & Betts, J. A. (2018). Restoration of Muscle Glycogen and Functional Capacity: Role of Post-Exercise Carbohydrate and Protein Co-Ingestion. Nutrients10(2), 253. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10020253