Published: 03/01/2013 - Updated: 10/21/2018
Carbohydrates are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fundamentally, they provide energy to the body, (4 kcal per gram ingested) become immediate fuel, and thus differing from fat, which function as reserve fuel in long term.
Also, do not forget that glucose provided by these compounds is the only energy source of the brain and plays an irreplaceable role in the integrity and functioning of the nervous tissue.
Foods that contain them
- Grains and their derivatives
- Vegetables and fruits
- Refined sugars: sweets, candy, sugary drinks, cookies, pastries.
The first three carbohydrates are "good", and bring benefit and nutritional health.
Refined sugars would be considered "bad", and are called "empty calories" because they do not provide any other nutrient or vitamin.
Although all carbohydrates have the same basic structure, there are different types that are classified depending on the complexity of their structure and chemical digested and are metabolized differently (monosaccharides and polysaccharides). But we can also divide them into the following groups:
They have rapid digestion, get into the bloodstream and are soon transported to the liver. Glucose, fructose and galactose are between them.
Glucose: is the main end product of other more complex carbohydrates; good examples of foods high in glucose are fruits, vegetables and honey.
Fructose: is the sugar most powerful, natural sweetener, is absorbed in the intestine and then in the liver is converted to glucose. It is found in fruits, and a significant proportion in honey.
Galactose: Formed from lactose degradation, also known as milk sugar.
Once in the liver, both fructose and galactose are converted into glucose. Some of this glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, and the excess, after meeting the requirements of the body, are converted to fat.
The foods that only provide carbohydrates or “empty calories" are recommended to consume in small amounts or avoid them, because they can promote excess weight or blood triglycerides increased.
Glycogen is the manner in which the body storage carbohydrate and is the principal source of glucose and energy. It is stored in the liver and muscle.
The glycogen stored in the liver, is mainly used to keep blood glucose levels, while the other functions as energy for muscle contraction allow exercising.
There are other foods that have sugar but aren’t refined foods as they also provide minerals, fiber and other features that enable real absorption.
They are composed of several units of monosaccharides (mainly glucose). Their absorption is slower, resulting in a further increase of slowed blood glucose. The organism must reduce complex carbohydrates making them simple to assimilate carbohydrates.
Starch: is present in cereals such as rice, oats, barley, corn and wheat products. It can also be found in vegetables like peas, chickpeas, lentils, beans and soy, or tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes and cassava.
Their digestion starts in the mouth, but need to be degraded and converted into simple carbohydrates to be absorbed. This is the case of grains that provide large amounts of energy consumed in appropriate amounts, are not conducive to weight gain and do provide a long-lasting fuel. In addition, many of them contribute fiber, vitamins and minerals.
How to consume?
The following recommendations can help you lead a more complete diet without many "empty calories":
- Prefer whole grains and their derivatives, such as breads and pastas, which will give you energy and an adequate intake of fiber.
- Include daily variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Include vegetables in soups, stews, salads and puddings.
- Minimize consumption of sweets and candies, replace them with nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.) fresh or dried fruit, seeds and grain natural bars.
- Moderate consumption of fried foods, cakes, biscuits and similar products.