Carbohydrates are also called carbs, which come from sugars, fresh fruits, and food sources like bread, pasta, etc. Carbs form the most abundant and economical source of food energy in our diet. Carbohydrates are present both in foods of animal origin such as milk and dairy products and in plant origin such as vegetables, cereals, legumes, flours, and fruits. Depending on their composition, carbohydrates can be classified into:
Simple carbs are simple sugars, which dissolve very quickly in our body
- Monosaccharides: Fructose and glucose.
- Disaccharides that form by the union of two identical or different monosaccharides: maltose, lactose, sucrose, etc.
- Oligosaccharides: Polymers of up to 20 monosaccharide units.
Complex carbs contain nutritional benefits
- Polysaccharides: Formed by the union of over 20 simple monosaccharides.
- Function: Glycogen, starch, and dextran.
- Structural function: Xylans and cellulose.
Functions of Carbohydrates
- Energy function. Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 kcal of energy. Carbohydrates rank first in daily requirement of nutrients because they provide the fuel needed to carry out physiological and psychological functions.
- Once eaten, carbohydrates are hydrolyzed to glucose, a simple substance. Glucose is important for proper functioning of our central nervous system (CNS). Our brain uses about 100 grams of glucose on a daily basis.
- Carbohydrates help fat metabolism and prevent oxidation of proteins. They help in fermentation of lactose, which helps in spread of favorable bacterial flora necessary for our intestinal tract and digestive system.
Daily Requirement of Carbohydrates In a Balanced Diet
In a balanced diet, we require foods rich in carbohydrates up to 55%, fat up to 30%, and protein up to 15%. Simple carbohydrates food sources are sweets namely cookies, jams, and chocolates, and complex carbohydrate food sources are fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and dairy products. So if you want to lose or maintain weight and avoid sudden drops in your blood sugar levels and avoid sudden effects on your mood, you need to limit simple carbohydrates or simple sugars and concentrate on complex carbohydrates. A diet based on whole grain releases continuous stream of blood glucose that remains for several hours in our body. Unfortunately due to modernization of our food habits, we consume 70% carbohydrates of which 80% are simple carbs namely junk foods like pizza, pasta, burgers, sandwiches and sweets like jams, cookies, and chocolates due to which we suffer from many cases of obesity, high cholesterol levels, increased blood sugar levels, cardiovascular problems, etc. Therefore, consuming food sources of complex carbs like green vegetables, legumes, and fresh fruits is highly recommended for healthy life.
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