What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates. Do you have a sweet tooth for carbs?
A positive answer places you among the other 7 billion people of planet Earth who love carbohydrates, even if some of them do not know what carbohydrates are. Sweet is the taste that most of us prefer, and not just because is pleasant having it on our tongues, but also because it gives us a comfortable sensation of feeling good, due to the serotonin released in the brain. What we should know is that the sweet sugar is actually a sweet carbohydrate.
What are carbohydrates?
A carbohydrate is an organic compound that consists only of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually with a hydrogen : oxygen atom ratio of 2:1. Carbohydrates can be viewed as hydrates of carbon, hence their name. They are initially synthesized in plants from a complex series of reactions involving photosynthesis.
Carbohydrates have three important functions in human body: to provide energy for our cells, to store storing in liver and muscles as glycogen and digestive regulation.
Trying to understand carbs better, you should know that, besides the sugar mentioned before, there are others forms of carbohydrates. By their chemical structure, carbohydrates can be classified as simple (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and complex (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides). Simple carbohydrates include: glucose (basic unit for complex carbs), fructose, galactose, sucrose (our daily sugar), maltose, lactose and there is plenty of them in table sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, jams, jellies, fruit drinks, soft drinks, candies. Complex carbohydrates are: starch, glycogen, cellulose, hemicelluloses and soluble and insoluble fibers and they come from green vegetables, whole grains and foods (oatmeal, pasta, whole-grain breads), starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin), beans, lentils, and peas a.s.o.
Carbohydrate metabolism refers to the various biochemical processes responsible for the formation, breakdown and conversion of carbohydrates in living organisms.These processes actually start in the mouth where an enzyme called salivary amylase starts the breakdown. The rest of the digestion process occurs mainly in the small intestine where enzymes break down large carbohydrate molecules into a simpler form called glucose. Glucose is absorbed into the blood stream. Most of the glucose is used for immediate energy needs by the cells. The excess is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue and it is used when blood glucose level drops low. With the glycogen stores filled, the remaining glucose can be converted to fatty acids and stored as fat tissue.
Fibers from carbohydrates cannot be digested by the human body, so they provide no calories or energy. Fiber gives the bulk to the intestinal contents and aids in normal elimination.
Carbohydrates in your diet
God did not create carbohydrates equal. Some are good for our health and weight, some aren’t. So, if you’ve enjoyed the sweetness of sugar in your mouth, and the serotonin effect is gone, it’s time to feel a little bit guilty. Complex carbs and not the simple ones like sugar are recommended.
But even if you are trying to lose some weight, carbohydrates shouldn’t be completely cut from your diet, because they are your body’s main energy source, a fuel used to power all cellular activities. When you restrict carbohydrates from your diet, you are likely to experience mood swings, nausea, dizziness, weakness and depression. As your brain runs out of glucose, you might also find it a little bit harder to concentrate. For long periods of time, if your body is deprived of adequate carbohydrates, fat and protein will be burned instead of carbs. You will lose weight, but there will be some undesirable side effects. To avoid them, the best option is a low-carb diet, which brings in the organism moderate quantities of complex carbohydrates, rich in dietary fibers.