In addition to serve as “fuel” and provide energy quickly and effectively, carbohydrates help maintain various basic functions such as digestion.
What are carbohydrates?
Also known as sugars, carbohydrates or sugars, carbohydrates are substances that come from the photosynthesis of plants: plants use the sun’s energy to combine carbon dioxide from the air with water taken from the earth thus forming carbohydrates.
These nutrients are the main source of energy for humans and should be the main fraction of our diet. Thus, it is recommended that about 55% of the calories we consume come from carbohydrates. These are found in most plant foods and in a small proportion in the milk and derivatives.
Why are so important carbohydrates?
The essential function of carbohydrates is to provide energy to the whole organism. This energy is provided in the form of glucose, which can be used by all cells without exception. Some of them, particularly the brain, only use glucose as an energy source, so the consumption of carbohydrates is so important for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
In addition to serve as “fuel” and provide energy quickly and effectively, carbohydrates help maintain various basic functions such as digestion and assimilation of nutrients or maintaining body temperature.
They also play an important structural role: they are part of DNA and RNA, the nucleic acids that preserve and transmit genetic information and cell membranes of our body.
However, it is important to follow a balanced diet because excess carbohydrates not eliminated, but stored as fat.
They appear, then, the famous flab and, even worse, can become overweight or obesity and other disorders resulting from these problems (triglycerides, diabetes …). This is probably the main reason why carbohydrates have become infamous.
It is essential, therefore, avoid excessive consumption of carbohydrates. We want to emphasize, too, that not all foods contain the same type of carbohydrates, as discussed below. Depending on the type of carbohydrate that predominates in our diet, the effects that will occur in the body will be different. For example, if we consume refined foods that are rich in carbohydrates and contain fiber and other nutrients, sugar will transform very quickly into fat.
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Types of Carbohydrates
We can divide the carbohydrates present in plant foods into two groups:
- Assimilable: They are those who, after suffering a series of transformations, are incorporated into our body through the small intestine. Depending on the speed of intestinal absorption, this group of carbohydrates is classified into different types:
- Very fast absorption: fruit juices, honey, sugar, molasses …
- Fast absorption: whole fruits, white bread, white flour, white rice …
- Slow absorption: vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
- Unassimilable: Are carbohydrates that our body is not able to transform and therefore can not digest or absorb. They are what we know as dietary fiber, which, although it is not digested, it is essential to health. It is found exclusively in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and legumes. Numerous benefits to the body regulates intestinal transit, cholesterol levels and blood glucose favors the proliferation of beneficial intestinal flora, prevent colon cancer, etc.
Carbohydrates and the most recommended foods
Of the two types of carbohydrates we’ve seen, the slow absorption should form the basis of our diet. They are found in natural, whole foods such as fresh vegetables, legumes and whole grain cereals (and derivatives). They contain fiber, minerals and vitamins that help prevent disease, provide vitality and regulate the nervous system.
Regarding fruits it should be noted that, although their sugars are rapidly absorbed, provide essential nutrients to the body. So, with food just mentioned, fruits are the basis of a balanced and natural diet.
Should be avoided, however, processed and refined foods that do not contain any nutrient and only provide calories. Moreover, absorbed quickly, can cause hyperglycaemia and destabilize the nervous system. We refer to products such as refined sugar, white bread, bakery products, potato chips, breakfast cereals, industrial juices, soft drinks, etc.