The carbohydrates are the main energy source organism. The human body uses them as food for muscles, organs and tissues , so they are an essential nutrient.
Carbohydrates are known as simple or complex depending on their chemical structure. The simple ones are those that include the sugar that is found naturally in certain foods such as dairy or some vegetables; also the sugar added during the food refining process. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are known to biomolecules , also called sugars or saccharides. These molecules are made up of three main elements: hydrogen, carbon and, in a lower proportion, oxygen. In general terms, its main function in relation to the organism of living beings is to favor both the absorption and the storage of energy, both physically and mentally.
This function is carried out thanks to the enzyme amylase, which helps in the breakdown of this molecule into glucose, which allows the body to use energy to carry out its functions.
There are three main types of carbohydrates.
- Sugar: It is the simplest form of this nutrient and can be found naturally in certain foods, such as some fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
- Starch – A complex carbohydrate that can be found naturally in vegetables, grains, and legumes.
- Fiber: Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that can be found naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some legumes.
Benefits of carbohydrates
It is important to know what are the main benefits of these nutrients.
- First of all, note that they allow the body to move since they are its main source of energy , even ahead of proteins and fats.
- Carbohydrates are essential for the proper functioning of the brain . A diet with adequate carbohydrate consumption improves the capacity of both attention and concentration in children and adults.
- They are also beneficial for the mood as they are high in vitamin B ; a very important nutrient for the proper functioning of the nervous system .
- In relation to the fact whether carbohydrates promote body weight gain, in the case of complex carbohydrates, as they release energy gradually, they help the feeling of satiety last longer.
Types of carbohydrates
There are four fundamental types of carbohydrates, which differ based on their chemical structure.
As their name suggests, they are those carbohydrates made up of only one molecule . They are the body’s main source of energy and play a very important role in a wide range of functions, such as biosynthesis or anabolism.
There are also certain types that are included in monosaccharide carbohydrates, such as ribose or deoxyribose, which make up part of the genetic material of DNA.
Disaccharides are another type of carbohydrate. They are made up of two monosaccharide molecules. The most common are those that we explain below.
- Sucrose: it is the most abundant disaccharide in the body and is responsible for the transport of carbohydrates.
- Lactose: the sugar present in milk is known as such.
- Maltose: a specific type of carbohydrate whose origin is in the hydrolysis of starch.
- Cellobiose: as for cellobiose, it is obtained from the hydrolysis of cellulose.
Oligosaccharides are one of the most complex carbohydrates since their structure is variable. In relation to their composition, they can be made up of between three and nine monosaccharide molecules , which are joined together through links; the release occurs when a hydrolysis process takes place.
And lastly, polysaccharides. They are chains that are made up of more than ten monosaccharides. their main function is related to storage and structure .
What are carbohydrates for?
As we have explained, the main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy, both physically and mentally. However, they also fulfill other functions that are key to the proper functioning of the body.
- Energy reserve: carbohydrates play a very important role as an energy reserve. The storage of energy in the body has the ability to mobilize quickly for the production of glucose if necessary. That is why it is so important to include carbohydrates in the daily diet, both for adults and children.
- Protein savings: carbohydrates are used as fuel, so the body should not use protein to generate energy. In this way, proteins are used for other functions.
- Tissue development: it is important to note that they form a very important part of the nervous and connective tissues.
- Regulate functions: and, finally, cellulose is responsible for regulating different functions of the digestive system , such as promoting intestinal transit, increasing the feeling of satiety or reducing the absorption of cholesterol.
Carbohydrates in the diet
Carbohydrates are one of the most important nutrients for the proper functioning of the body both physically and mentally as they provide energy. The digestive system converts them to glucose, which is used to provide energy to cells, tissues, and organs .
It is important to know that when you consume foods rich in carbohydrates in excess, the amount of body fat increases. Therefore, experts recommend consuming them in moderation; the recommended amount is between 200 and 300 grams of carbohydrates daily .
Simple carbohydrate rich foods
Those foods that are high in simple carbohydrates are: refined sugar, honey, fruits such as grapes and raisins, cereals, white rice, pasta, and soft drinks .
One of the main characteristics that define simple carbohydrates is that the body digests them very quickly, thus generating a greater sensation of appetite . That is why its consumption is not recommended for those who are following a weight loss diet.
Foods rich in complex carbohydrates
Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include whole grains, some types of legumes such as lentils or chickpeas, carrots, and almonds .
Unlike simple carbohydrates, these are digested much slower, so they take longer to enter the bloodstream. That is why they generate a feeling of satiety for a longer period of time.
The most fattening carbohydrates
There are a series of foods with a high carbohydrate content that, if consumed in excess, can promote body weight gain. They are the ones indicated below.
- Sugar: sugar, both white and brown, increases the amount of glucose in the blood. If these levels remain high for a long period of time, the risk of suffering certain serious diseases such as diabetes increases .
- Soft drinks : for example, a can of cola contains 35 grams of sugar. Thus, if you do not lead an active lifestyle, with frequent physical exercise, part of that amount of sugar is converted into body fat, which implies weight gain.
- Sweets: in the same way as sugary drinks, sweets contain a high percentage of carbohydrates in their composition, specifically sucrose.
- French fries: French fries are one of the most popular snacks globally. A caloric food that is recommended to consume only casually to take care of health.
How to choose the carbohydrates to consume?
There are a number of aspects to take into account to select those carbohydrates that are going to be consumed in a rational way.
First of all, it is recommended to increase the consumption of both fruits and vegetables rich in fiber ; if they are rich in water much better because in this way they favor the hydration of the organism.
Second, whole grains are a fantastic food thanks to their high fiber content as well as B vitamins.
Third, the consumption of dairy products is recommended as they are foods rich in calcium and protein, in addition to numerous vitamins and minerals.
And, in fourth and last place, the consumption of added sugar should be limited ; in large quantities it does not have any type of benefit for the health of the organism.
Are Carbs Bad?
There is a kind of popular belief that carbohydrates are unhealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are nutrients that have a very important role for physical and mental health since they constitute the main source of energy for the body.
Simple carbohydrates tend to be thought of as bad because they are found in foods like sweets; while, complex carbohydrates are taken as good because they are included in vegetables and whole grains. However, the reality is that both types of carbohydrates are good , as long as they are consumed in moderation.
To take a simple example, certain types of fruits are simple carbohydrates; however, they have a large selection of properties and health benefits thanks to their nutritional value . Similarly, brown rice is a complex carbohydrate that provides a large amount of fiber and energy.
The most important thing is not to consume carbohydrates that do not have any type of nutritional value; that is, they do not offer any benefit to the body, such as sweets.
The danger of low carb diets
As we have pointed out, if carbohydrates are consumed in a moderate way , especially if they are complex, they do not promote weight gain . However, there are some weight loss regimens that include low-carbohydrate diets. Well, these diets involve a series of health risks that it is important to avoid.
This is pointed out by a study presented in the German city of Munich. Researchers say that a low-carbohydrate diet increases the risk of premature death.
Those who have carried out the study have found that those people who follow a diet low in carbohydrates have a greater risk of dying prematurely due to different disorders such as coronary heart disease or cancer.
Therefore, these are diets that should be avoided in the long run. While it is true that in the short term they can be useful to lose weight, control blood pressure and improve glucose levels, they should not be maintained in the long term in any case.
By way of conclusion, insist on the fact that carbohydrates are not harmful to health at all . Moreover, they are an essential nutrient since without them the body does not obtain energy and, therefore, does not function properly.
Of course, it is important to choose those foods rich in carbohydrates that have good nutritional value, such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains, for example.
Taking these aspects into account and consuming the appropriate amount of carbohydrates daily, the health benefits are very broad: adequate levels of energy, protection against certain diseases, weight control …
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.