I’m a big believer in educating my clients so that they have the foundation and confidence to understand nutrition. Nutrition is a complex science and it is naturally difficult to understand. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you read this carbohydrate basic blog and ask yourself “why didn’t I know that!?” Many people, who are unqualified, give nutrition advice that is down right false or they try to capture audiences by spewing ‘blanket statements’ about nutrition that may not apply to you. It’s easy to fall for this. You have the best intentions, but it is time to get the facts straight.
The basics of carbohydrates for humans…
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients, meaning that they supply calories (energy) needed for our bodies much like fats and proteins.
Definition of Carbs: Carbohydrates are organic compounds of which occur in foods and living tissue, and include sugars, starch and fiber (cellulose).
Functions of Carbohydrates
- Our body’s main fuel source needed for brain functioning, physical activity and organ operation.
- Aids with the regulation of blood glucose (sugar) levels
- Prevents fatigue and irritability
- Prevents ketosis (the breakdown of fatty acids for energy use – considered abnormal fat metabolism)
- Allows for fat oxidation or breakdown when needed
- Spares protein
- Promotes healthy gastro-intestinal function in the body by producing B-complex vitamins, made by beneficial bacteria in the body to promote adequate digestion processes
- Provides fiber (both insoluble and soluble) to regular bowel movements
- Makes our food more flavorful
- Promotes immunity via cellular recognition processes (protein-carbohydrate molecules)
What happens when we do not have adequate dietary carbohydrate intake?
- General fatigue
- Overall Weakness
- Low blood glucose levels – dizziness, headaches, irritability
- Ketosis – the abnormal breakdown of fat molecules for energy use
- Kidney distress
What are the various types of carbohydrates & what foods have them?
Starches (complex carbohydrates) – oligosaccharides & polysaccharides
- Starchy vegetables – peas, corn, lima beans, potatoes
- Grains – oats, barley, rice, bread, pasta, crackers
- Refined – contains, the endosperm of the grain
- Whole – contains the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain
- Dried beans, lentils
- Fairly slow digestive process
Sugars (simple carbohydrates) – monosaccharides & disaccharides
- Naturally occurring sugars found in fruits or milks
- Added sugars such as those found in baked foods or syrups
- Fairly rapid digestive process
Fiber – polysaccharides
- The indigestible part of plant foods.
- Regulates bowel movements – contributes to slower digestive process
- 25- 30 grams of fiber is recommended for someone following a regular diet
- Sources: beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods (i.e. whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, nuts
During digestion, all carbohydrates break down to glucose (aka: sugar!) before they can enter the bloodstream to ultimately enter cells for FUEL. Some of this glucose is stored as glycogen in your liver for late use.