The Carbohydrate Wonders
By Nmami Agarwal
Carbohydrate is the essential macronutrient which is a major source of energy. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose and then the energy store houses aka mitochondria uses the oxygen to burn glucose into heat energy by producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP helps in release and storage of energy to support physical activities and essential body functions.
Different carbs function differently in bodies, they are broadly classified into simple and complex carbs.
Simple carbs are made from one or two sugar molecules these include glucose, lactose, sucrose, fructose and lactose.
Complex carbs are formed with sugar molecules that are strung together in long complex chains. These are ‘good carbs’ and takes a long time to absorb and digest.
There are several factors like age, sex, activity level, and health which determines the level of carbs required in the body but generally, 45-65% of total calories should be derived from complex carbohydrates.
Functions of Carbohydrates
- Energy Production: Carbohydrates in food breaks down into glucose and glucose produces fuel molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through cellular respiration. Cells then use ATP to power metabolic tasks.
- Energy storage: When your body has enough energy to support its functions, the extra glucose is stored in the form of glycogen (the majority of which is stored in the muscle and liver). Your body’s glycogen stores are highly dependent on your activity levels.
- Building of Macromolecules: Some glucose is converted to ribose and deoxyribose, which are essential building blocks of RNA and DNA.
Further, there are three abundant forms of carbohydrates
- Sugar: Sugars are a simple carbohydrate, Sugar is essential to provide energy to our body in order to do normal activities and survival. However, it is essential to pick the right kind and amount of sugar since all kind of sugar is not good for the body.
Food with good sugar: coconut sugar, fructose in fruits like – banana, mango, sapota , grapes, and custard apples. You should eat these in moderation, or completely avoid if you have diabetes or insulin resistance.
- Starch: Starch is a form of complex carbohydrate which is made up of many linked together sugar molecules and broken down by the body. Starch is great source of nutrients, fiber, minerals, phytonutrients and fibers. Starches are an excellent source of energy for those athletes who are carbohydrate loading before endurance events such as marathons.
Foods rich in starch: cornmeal, oats, whole wheat flour, rice, pasta, potatoes, and beans.
- Fiber: Fiber is also a complex form of carbohydrate which does not break down by the human body; hence we cannot take energies from the fiber. This type of carbohydrate does not get absorbed. Instead, most fiber passes through the small and large intestines and is excreted in the form of feces. The fiber-rich foods increase the feeling of fullness and satiety. Fiber also slows down the digestion of other nutrients like sugar and starch which helps in preventing blood sugar and insulin hikes.
Food rich in fiber: Oranges, banana, apples, spinach, swiss chard, lentils, potato.
Over to you
Carbohydrates are available in healthy as well as unhealthy food, therefore, it is important to pick the right food, also it is important to add more complex carbs rather simpler carbs, it retains and absorbs nutrients in the body and provide us energy throughout.
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