What are examples of carbohydrates
What is the function of carbohydrates in the body?
Table of Contents
- What are carbohydrates actually?
- Carbohydrates provide the body with energy
- Carbohydrates serve as stored energy reserves
- Carbohydrates help maintain muscle
- Carbohydrates promote healthy digestion
- Carbohydrates affect heart health and diabetes
- Do we really need carbohydrates?
- Knowledge to take away
What are carbohydrates actually?
Carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Together with proteins and fats, they are one of the basic nutrients and are mainly found in plant-based foods.
One distinguishes carbohydrates in single, double and multiple sugars. Simple sugars or short-chain carbohydrates are carbohydrates whose molecules contain three to seven carbon atoms.
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Short-chain carbohydrates are, for example, glucose, fructose and galactose, with glucose from grape sugar being the most important energy source.
Double sugars are made up of two molecules of single sugars. These include, among other things, household sugar, which lactose (Milk sugar) and maltose.
The nutrition expert Dr Monika Toeller, MD advises for the consumption of sugar: "The less, the better! In general, the World Health Organization recommends not consuming more than ten percent of your daily calorie intake in the form of sugar. That is more than you think - namely with an average calorie intake of 2,000 calories per day at least 50 grams of sugar. But be careful: this amount not only includes white sugar, but also brown sugar and honey, by the way.
The third group are the so-called long-chain or complex carbohydrates. They are in plant foods like for example Legumes and Whole grain products contain. The multiple sugars are composed of at least ten simple sugar molecules.
Starch, in particular, is of great importance for the production of energy in the multiple sugars, as it can be used very well.
Carbohydrates provide the body with energy
One of the most important functions of carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy. Before the carbohydrates get into the blood, the body breaks down the ingested carbohydrates into glucose molecules.
The glucose molecules are then taken up by the cells and used to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Adenosine triphosphate serves as the energy supplier for numerous metabolic processes.
Most body cells can make ATP not only from carbohydrates, but also from it Fats and in exceptional cases also made from amino acids.
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However, the energy from carbohydrates is more readily available to the body than from fats. The body needs sufficient oxygen for the production of ATP from fatty acids.
The body can produce ATP from carbohydrates or glucose even without oxygen. This is especially important during great exertion, as oxygen is then usually scarce. The body therefore only uses fatty acids at low to medium intensities and with prolonged activity.
So carbohydrates are primarily used for the rapid supply of energy Athletes of great importance (1).
Carbohydrates serve as stored energy reserves
If the body has more glucose available than it needs at the moment, it can store it in the liver or in the muscles. The storage form of glucose is called glycogen. About 100 grams of glycogen can be stored in the liver.
The body uses the glycogen stored in the liver either for energy production or to keep the blood sugar level constant between meals.
The glycogen storage capacity of the muscle cells is around 500 grams. The glycogen that is stored in the muscles can only be used by the muscle cells themselves and is used during strenuous exercise (2).
When all glycogen stores are full, the body converts excess carbohydrates into triglycerides and stores them in the form of fat.
Carbohydrates help maintain muscle
Glycogen stores aren't the only buffers the body has to keep the body supplied with glucose. If the body does not have enough glucose available, it can convert amino acids into glucose and use them for energy supply. However, the breakdown of amino acids into glucose means that the body is breaking down muscle mass.
This should be prevented because Muscles are existential for any form of movement. Scientific studies have also linked the loss of muscle mass to an increased risk of disease (3).
The consumption of at least some carbohydrates can prevent this condition of glucose undersupply and prevent the breakdown of muscle mass as well as supply the brain with sufficient glucose (4).
Other ways in which the muscles can be supplied with sufficient energy are presented in the following article.
Carbohydrates promote healthy digestion
There are carbohydrates, the so-called fiber, which are not converted into glucose like starch or sugar, but pass through the intestine undigested. There is soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber, for example, is in oatmeal, Legumes, fruits or in vegetables. They absorb water on their way through the intestines and form a gel-like substance.
The soluble fiber increases the volume of the stool and makes the stool softer (5).
Insoluble fiber also increases stool volume and also speeds up the digestive process. They are found in whole grain products and in the peels of seeds, vegetables and fruits.
Scientific studies show that the consumption of insoluble Fiber can protect against some intestinal diseases.
For example, a study of 40,000 men found that regular consumption of insoluble fiber reduced the risk of developing diverticulosis by 37 percent.
Diverticulosis is an intestinal disease in which protuberances form on the intestinal wall that can become inflamed (6).
It can be concluded that fiber is a healthy one digestion and promote intestinal health.
Carbohydrates affect heart health and diabetes
Regular consumption of short-chain carbohydrates contained in white flour products, sweets, fruit juices, jams and the like increases the risk of developing diabetes.
Simple carbohydrates contain next to no healthy fiber and cause blood sugar fluctuations.
In contrast, the consumption of high fiber foods has a positive effect on the body Heart health and reduces the risk of diabetes (7).
Soluble fiber has a cholesterol-lowering effect. They bind bile acid in the small intestine and prevent it from being absorbed. The liver then uses it to produce more bile acid cholesterol from the blood.
Scientific studies have shown that harmful LDL cholesterol has been reduced by seven percent by taking supplements containing 10.2 grams of soluble fiber (8).
An overview study of 22 scientific studies also found that for every seven grams of extra fiber ingested through the diet, the risk of heart disease is reduced by nine percent (9).
Fiber does not increase blood sugar like other carbohydrates, but rather ensures that the carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly.
So fiber helps to keep blood sugar constant and to avoid blood sugar spikes after eating (10).
Do we really need carbohydrates?
Providing energy and maintaining muscles are among the most important functions of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not existential for the body, but can be replaced by other nutrients.
Almost every cell in the body is able to produce ATP not only from carbohydrates but also from fat. The greatest store of energy in the human body is not the glycogen store, but that Adipose tissue.
The brain normally uses glucose for energy. In long periods of hunger or on an extremely low-carbohydrate diet, the brain also uses what are known as Ketone bodies back.
Ketone bodies are formed when fatty acids are broken down.
The body forms ketone bodies when it does not have any carbohydrates available for energy production. However, not all brain cells can use ketone bodies for energy production.
About a third of the brain cells need glucose for energy production. However, the body does not necessarily need carbohydrates for the required amount of glucose, as it can also produce these from proteins (11).
Knowledge to take away
Carbohydrates consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and are one of the basic nutrients. Carbohydrates are divided into single sugars, double sugars and polysaccharides.
One of the most important functions of carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy. The energy from carbohydrates is available to the body more quickly than the energy from fats or proteins.
When the body has more glucose available than it needs, it stores it in the form of glycogen in the liver or in muscle cells.
During periods of starvation, the body can produce glucose from amino acids in the muscles and use it for energy supply. Consumption of at least some carbohydrates can prevent a glucose deficiency and prevent the breakdown of muscle mass.
There are also carbohydrates, so-called fiber, which are not converted into glucose like starch or sugar, but instead pass through the body undigested. Fiber promotes digestive health, heart health, and reduces the risk of diabetes.
Carbohydrates are not necessary for the body to survive as the body has alternative ways of performing the functions of carbohydrates. The body can also use fats, for example, to provide energy and maintain muscles.
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