Carbohydrates - Function, Types, Benefits, Facts, Foods, Role, And Side Effects

Functions and facts

Carbohydrates (sugars) are indispensable and essential nutritional substances for the normal functioning of the human body. Scientifically, they are organic compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen containing at least a saccharide.

They are foods that the body uses to produce glucose. Amylase (an enzyme in the body) decomposes the carbs in a specific way and turns them into glucose.

All carbs release glucose during the digestion process. Glucose is transported into the body through the blood and gets into cells in order to be converted into energy.

The pancreas secretes insulin, which controls glucose absorption in the cells. If there is an excess of glucose within the body, it is converted into glycogen, which is stored in the liver or converted into fat deposited in various parts of the body.

When a person’s body needs more energy, the pancreas secretes a second hormone, called glucagon. It converts glycogen back into glucose, which is released into the bloodstream for the cells to use. The slower the release of glucose and hormones is, the more stable and more durable the body’s energy levels will be.

They are the only food the brain needs, even if we are talking about an organ made almost entirely of fat. They also intervene in all metabolic systems and are the main energy source for the entire day.

Healthy food sources of carbohydrates

Vegetables, grains, fruits, honey, and of the processed products – sugar.

But only people who consume mostly vegetables, fruits and whole grains provide the real necessary food for the most complex organ in the body.

Carbs contained by sweet vegetables are slowly absorbed. Thus, the body takes the necessary energy and the nutrients it needs and the pancreas will not secrete insulin extremely fast, as is the case with the consumption of rapidly absorbed sugars.

Same slowly absorbed sugars are provided by legumes and whole grains. They give the feeling of satiety for a long time, thus preventing overeating.

Caution

Conversely, there are also rapidly absorbed carbs, represented by sugar, shelled grains, and honey. They force the pancreas to discharge insulin quickly, in order to be assimilated by tissues.

Thirty minutes later the feeling of hunger reappears and, most likely, for sweet. If you do not become aware of this food habit, you will keep eating fast absorbing carbs. It is a vicious circle and also the main mechanism for the occurrence of type 2 diabetes.

Although healthy, honey is absorbed rapidly and increases blood sugar levels. Therefore, it should be consumed in moderation.

They are found in nature in various forms:

  • simple carbohydrates that consist of:

– sugars containing a single molecule (glucose, fructose, and galactose), rapidly assimilated by the body;

– sugars containing two molecules, the most common being the white refined sugar made from cane or beet sugar (fructose and glucose). Lactose is the sugar found in milk and maltose.

  • complex carbs consist of a chain of more than two sugar molecules and are the body’s preferred form of fuel. They are stored in muscles and break down slower than simple carbohydrates.
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Dietary fiber may contain various types of compounds including cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, lignin etc. Dietary fibers are complex types of carbs that can not be digested and have the ability to move slowly through the digestive tract. Also, they help the body maintain a healthy digestive system.

The role of carbohydrates in the body and benefits for athletes:

  • constituents of carbs represent a fraction of the carbs that are part of the fundamental cells of the body;
  • they help maintain an optimal functioning of the immune system and a normal development of the body, reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes;
  • they play an important role in the optimal functioning of the central nervous system, as nerve cells depend on glucose to function. Without a sufficient supply of glucose, any person may feel tired, dizzy and weak. This is why athletes need adequate amounts of carbs before a competition, in order to have optimal physical and mental results.
  • they quickly provide energy and calories, and are easily metabolized;
  • they are essential factors that contribute to the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal area. Lactose released after decomposition of carbohydrates ensures and promotes the multiplication of certain bacteria in the intestine, increasing the absorption probability of calcium in the body. Calcium and fibers derived from cellulose ensure a smooth functioning of the gastrointestinal system, stimulate peristalsis and the secretion of important digestive enzymes.

Recommended quantity of carbs for the human body

They should represent 47-50% of total calorie intake in a day and it is the necessary daily amount of the organs whose functioning depends exclusively on glucose, such as the brain.

The muscles and liver have the ability to store glucose and their reserves can provide the necessary energy. A low intake of carbs forces the body to produce glucose from fat or muscular proteins, which leads to a decrease in the muscular mass.

It is recommended to eat more complex carbs than simple sugars, in the following proportions:

  • two-thirds complex carbs;
  • one third simple carbs.
  • Eating foods containing sugar should not exceed 10% of total caloric intake or 50 grams, in a 2,000 calories diet.

Low consumption of carbs can cause:

  • hypoglycemia causes – chills, dizziness, mood changes, inarticulate speech, rapid pulse, palpitations, sweating, etc.
  • muscular atrophy, as the body begins to use carbohydrates made from the component of muscular proteins.

Side effects of excessive consumption of carbs

Too many carbs (especially from processed foods and combined with vegetable oils) in a person’s diet, increase your daily intake of calories. This promotes weight gain and may even lead to obesity. However, since they are a vital part of the human diet, eliminating them from the regular diet is not the best (or healthier) method to lose weight.

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