The Function of Carbohydrates in Our Life

Carbohydrates are called carbohydrates because the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen they contain are usually in the proportion to form water with the general formula Cn(H2O)n. Plants use sunlight (photosynthesis) to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen.

Carbohydrates are classified into mono, di, tri, poly and heterosaccharides. The smallest carbohydrates are monosaccharides such as glucose whereas polysaccharides such as starch, cellulose and glycogen can be large and even indeterminate in length.

Carbohydrate: Mainly sugars and starches, together constituting one of the three principal types of nutrients used as energy sources (calories) by the body. Carbohydrates can also be defined chemically as neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Carbohydrates come in simple forms such as sugars and in complex forms such as starches and fiber. The body breaks down most sugars and starches into glucose, a simple sugar that the body can use to feed its cells. Complex carbohydrates are derived from plants. Dietary intake of complex carbohydrates can lower blood cholesterol when they are substituted for saturated fat.

Carbohydrates are classified into mono, di, tri, poly and heterosaccharides. The smallest carbohydrates are monosaccharides such as glucose whereas polysaccharides such as starch, cellulose and glycogen can be large and even indeterminate in length.

Key Functions of Carbohydrates

  • When your body needs energy, it looks for carbohydrates first.
  • If you are not consuming enough carbohydrates, your body will look for other sources of energy, such as proteins found in muscle tissue. Proteins, however, are not efficient sources of energy for the body.
  • Carbohydrates are most abundant dietary source of energy for all organisms.
  • They supply energy and serve as storage form of energy.
  • Carbohydrates such as glucose, fructose, starch, glycogen, etc. provide energy for functioning of living organisms.
  • Carbohydrates also protect your muscles and help regulate the amount of sugar circulating in your blood so that all the cells get the energy they need.
  • Carbohydrates participate in cellular functions such as cell growth, adhesion and fertilization.

Food Sources of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates come in two forms: simple and complex. Both are composed of units of sugar. The difference is how many sugar units they contain, and how they link together.

Examples of single sugars from foods include fructose (found in fruits) and galactose (found in milk products). Double sugars include lactose (found in dairy), maltose (found in certain vegetables and in beer), and sucrose (table sugar). Honey is also a double sugar, but unlike table sugar, contains a small amount of vitamins and minerals.

  • Complex carbohydrates release energy slowly and often contain fiber. These “healthier” forms of carbohydrates include whole grain bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals and legumes.
  • Simple carbohydrates are sugars that give you instant energy and typically have no nutritional value. Simple carbohydrates that contain vitamins and minerals occur naturally in: fruits, milk and milk products, vegetables. Simple carbohydrates are also found in processed and refined sugars* such as: candy, table sugar, syrups (not including natural syrups such as maple), regular carbonated beverages.

*Refined sugars provide calories, but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Such simple sugars are often called “empty calories” and can lead to weight gain. Also, many refined foods, such as white flour, sugar, and polished rice, lack B vitamins and other important nutrients unless they are marked “enriched.” It is healthiest to obtain carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutrients in as natural a form as possible — for example, from fruit instead of table sugar.

Daily Usage of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates typically consist of 45 – 60% of your total caloric intake.

The levels of carbohydrate allowed can vary according to levels of activity. The range is from 20 up to 70 grams daily.

However, 70 grams daily is very generous and is usually only for those who are engaging in weight training in addition to cardio exercise.

The normal low carbohydrate range for weight loss is 20 to 50 grams daily. You must determine how strict you need to be; the best way is to experiment and discover what amount works well for you as an individual.

There is in fact no minimum daily requirement for carbohydrates, but they do have many beneficial phytochemicals and fiber so eating some is fine (as long as they are unrefined/unprocessed).

Nutritional Safety

If you consume excess carbohydrates and participate in little or no physical activity, these excess carbohydrates will be converted and stored in the body as fat – which may lead to weight gain and other health risks.

My next article entitled “The Function of Protein in our Life” will examine the role of protein in good nutrition.

See you on the Beaches of the World,

Kevin McNabb



Source by Kevin McNabb