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Carbohydrates: The Human Body and Carbohydrates

Category: Nutrition | Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates

The most important source of energy for the human body. Our digestive system converts these organic compounds into glucose, or blood sugar. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. The simple carbohydrates come from fruits, vegetables, milk and milk byproducts. Complex carbohydrates are from whole grain breads, whole grain cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes.

USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) | Carbohydrates | Nutrition

 

Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?

Carbohydrates are good and they are bad, so any of those fad diets you may have read about, toss them out. We need carbohydrates to maintain a healthy balance in our lives, so the key is to cut out the bad and to eat lots, and lots, of the good.

Think fiber when you think of good carbs. Carbohydrates from fibrous foods are absorbed slowly by our body which helps maintain our blood sugar at a consistent level that is healthy. What are good carbs? Think whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.

Bad carbs are primarily foods that have been refined or, in some way, processed, such as white bread or white rice. This refining/processing removes the beneficial fibers and just makes them ’empty’ carbs.

The National Academies Institute of Medicine in a September 2002 report  recommends that we get more good carbs via fibrous foods. The state:

  • To meet the body’s daily nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease, adults should get 45% to 65% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat, and 10% to 35% from protein.
  • There is only one way to get fiber — eat plant foods. Plants such as fruits and vegetables are quality carbohydrates that are loaded with fiber.
  • Studies show an increased risk for heart disease with low-fiber diets.
  • There is also some evidence to suggest that fiber in the diet may also help to prevent colon cancer and promote weight control.

The recommendations are:

  • Men aged 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber a day.
  • Women aged 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber a day.
  • Because we need fewer calories and food as we get older, men over aged 50 should get 30 grams of fiber a day.
  • Women over aged 50 should get 21 grams of fiber a day.

Simple Carbohydrates

The basic unit of a carbohydrate is the monosaccharide, which are the simplest form of sugar. They are usually colorless, water-soluble, crystalline solids. Some monosaccharides have a sweet taste.

Examples of monosaccharides include glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose) and galactose.

Monosaccharides are the building blocks of disaccharides (such as sucrose) and polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch).

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides, they contain more than ten monosaccharide units, Called dietary fiber, these carbohydrates enhance digestion.

Complex carbohydrates can also be oligosaccharides, chains of three to nine monosaccharides. They help increase the number of friendly bacteria in the colon while simultaneously reducing the population of harmful bacteria.

Eat More Good Carbohydrates!

Simply put, eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains…
Eat less processed foods!

References:

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: Why Carbohydrates Matter to You | WebMD

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics | EatRight.org

Monosaccharide | Wikipedia.org

 

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