What is a nutrition blog if it does not present the main components from which foods are made. So, in this article you will find some basic information, for everyone to understand, without going into too many details which could be boring.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They are found in nature in the form of simple and complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrate molecules contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and are synthesized in plants through the process of photosynthesis.
The main simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose. Disaccharides are combinations of two monosaccharides, sucrose, lactose and maltose. Polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates have in their structure more than 10 simple carbohydrates, and are represented by glycogen, dietary fiber and starch.
The digestion of carbohydrates begins in the oral cavity, where an enzyme called salivary amylase breaks them down into simpler units. Further, in the small intestine, pancreatic amylase continues this process until it reaches the stage of simple carbohydrates, which pass through the intestinal wall or are actively absorbed into the bloodstream. Finally, all carbohydrates are converted into glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy, it is stored in muscle and liver in the form of glycogen (in the liver 100 – 150 g of glycogen, and in muscle between 300 and 500 g glycogen).
Foods with a high glycemic index induce a rapid and important secretion of insulin, which stimulates the body’s cells to store carbohydrates. Over time, these cells become less sensitive to insulin and type 2 diabetes can set in. Insulin resistance is linked to heart disease, obesity, age and inactivity. Weight loss and physical activity may reduce insulin resistance.
When the carbohydrate intake is higher than it can be used immediately or stored as glycogen, the excess is converted into fat!
What is most important is the type of carbohydrates in your menu, because some sources are healthier than others. The amount of carbohydrates in your diet, large or small, is less important than the type of carbohydrates in the diet. For example, healthy cereals, such as whole grains: whole wheat bread, rye, barley and quinoa are better choices than highly refined white bread or french fries.
The consumption of refined carbohydrates is associated with increased levels of cholesterol and plasma triglycerides and higher risk of heart disease.
It is recommended that 40% – 50% of the diet be made up of carbohydrates, but the exact amount can differ a lot from individual to individual, being directly proportional to the level of physical activity, sex, age. The basis of carbohydrates in the daily diet is vegetables and fruits, cereals (wheat, corn, rice, oats, etc.), pasta and dry bread and legumes (beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, soy).
Why Dietary Fibers Are Important
Dietary fiber or indigestible polysaccharides are an indispensable component for a healthy diet. They do not have an appreciable energy role, because they are only partially digested in the small intestine, but they have a multitude of benefits for both health and weight loss.
Fiber is an indigestible compound found in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. People lack the enzymes needed to digest fiber.
Most people have an insufficient fiber intake. Studies show that in the modern era only half of the needs are met. These are 30 – 40 gr for men and 20 – 25 gr for women. Fiber is not absorbed in the digestive tract, so it does not contribute to the overall caloric intake, but their presence stimulates the early onset of satiety. The are different types of dietary fibers:
- cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin are soluble fibers
- pectins, gums, mucilages are soluble fibers
Resistant starch is sometimes considered the third type of dietary fiber, because it is omitted from digestion in the small intestine with the advantages of soluble fiber and the benefits of insoluble fiber.
Studies have shown that people who double their fiber intake end up absorbing less by 130 kcal, which is a huge benefit for those who want to lose weight. Soluble fiber is found in oats, beans, fruits and vegetables and has many health benefits:
- contributes to the normalization or reduction of blood sugar levels
- lowering cholesterol level in the blood by decreasing absorption
- insoluble fibers, such as those from whole wheat, are associated with increasing the volume of the intestinal bowl and increasing the transit time through the digestive system
- delayed emptying of the stomach can help to lose weight by improving hunger control
- reduce the risk of constipation and its complications (hemorrhoids and diverticulosis).
- the soluble ones retain a lot of water, forming an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic gel favoring the elimination of toxic products from the colon.
Indigestible carbohydrates accentuate mechanical (volume) and chemical peristalsis, represented by irritation of the intestinal walls due to the fact that they appear as a product of instantaneous bacterial digestion such as short-chain fatty acids.
Fiber helps those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, acting as prebiotics feeding the intestinal mucosa, more precisely foods that contain dietary fiber in the form of polyglucides and oligoglycides. Onions, bananas, goulash, beets and greens are just some of the foods that contain these prebiotics that feed the bacteria in the intestines, maintaining the health of the colon. That is why they have an important role in the prophylaxis of rectal cancer by favoring the proliferation of the fermentation flora and shortening the residence time of the fecal bowl.
Although there are low-carb diets have become very popular due to the notoriety they have in the weight loss process, foods rich in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted into energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates – unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans – they support good health by providing vitamins, minerals, fiber and lots of important phytonutrients.
Sources of carbohydrates that should be limited include white bread, pastries, soda juices and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digestible carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain or interfere with weight loss and promote diabetes and heart disease.
The healthy plate recommends filling most of the plate with healthy carbohydrates, namely vegetables (except potatoes) and fruits that take up about half of the plate and whole grains filling about a quarter of the plate.
When it comes to weight loss, many people are reluctant to eat carbohydrates, but it is important to understand that it is better to include healthy sources of carbohydrates in our diet than to follow a strict diet or counting the number of calories consumed.