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Home :: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates - Food Sources And Low Carbohydrates Diet

Carbohydrates are so called because they ordinarily contain carbon, with oxygen and hydrogen in the same proportion as in water. They are utilized as fuel by the human body and constitute the most vital source of energy for the nervous tissues. Carbohydrates are the cheapest and most important source of energy for the vast majority of people in the tropics.

Carbohydrates come in two basic forms: complex and simple. Simple carbohydrates are one, two, or at most three units of sugar linked together in single molecules. Complex carbohydrates are hundreds or thousands of sugar units linked together in single molecules. Simple sugars are easily identified by their taste: sweet. Complex carbs, such as potatoes, are pleasant to the taste buds, but not sweet.

Function of Carbohydrates

The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Your liver breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is used for energy by the body.

Low Carbohydrates Diets

Low carb diets are based on the premise that a diet very low in carbohydrate leads to a reduction in the body's insulin production, resulting in fat and protein (muscle) stores being used as its main energy source.

The aim of low carbohydrate diets is to force the body to use fat as its main energy source, when this happens a person produces 'ketone bodies' to fuel parts of the body that can not use fat as an energy source - the brain, and red blood cells, in particular. When this happens a person is said to be in a state of ketosis - characterised by smelly breath (an acetone smell like nail varnish) and side effects such as nausea and fatigue.

Side Effects

  • Excessive carbohydrates can cause an increase in the total caloric intake, causing obesity .
  • Deficient carbohydrates can cause a lack of calories (malnutrition), or excessive intake of fats to make up the calories.
Carbohydrates Requirements

Carbohydrates are interchangeable with fats for energy requirements. Humans, like most mammals, convert amino acids of proteins and glycerol of fats to glucose. Consequently, there are nospecific dietary recommendations for carbohydrate, provided adequate calories are supplied. However, a person taking a low-calorie diet requires a minimum of about 50-75 g a day of carbohydrate to prevent ketosis.

Reduction of carbohydrate intake to 200 g a day improves chronic respiratory failure; reduction to 50 g a day gives additional benefit.

Vitamins B complex and Carbohydrate metabolism

Vitamins of the B group take part in the metabolism of carbohydrates at various stages. Carbohydrates increase the demand for the B vitamins. Nature has combined vitamin B with carbohydrates in most grains and plants. Modern methods of food refining, such as polishing rice, lead to vitamin B deficiency and impaired metabolism of carbohydrates. It is advisable to administer vitamin B-complex whenever a glucose injection is given.

Food Sources

Simple carbohydrates, also called simple sugars, are found in processed and refined sugars including table sugar, honey and candy, and in fruits, vegetables, and milk products. Simple carbohydrates are more easily digested by the body than complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates, which are basically long chains of simple carbohydrates, are combinations of starch and fiber. Any food with starch contains complex carbohydrates: Examples are bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

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