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What Do Carbohydrates Do?
What are they?
“Next time, have a high-carb breakfast, Daddy,” was what my daughter told me when I complained of hunger after working out with her almost a month ago. I smiled at the advice, not for her being a doctor, but for my being naïve. Of course I know, and everybody else knows, what carbohydrates are. But, hey, do we really know what they are?
Well, carbohydrates, or saccharides, are one of three major nutrients your body needs for energy. The other two are fats and proteins. They occur in plant foods and foods derived from plants, i.e., sugars and starches and cellulose from many plant structures.
Carbohydrates are broken down by the liver into simple sugar, or glucose, stimulating the production of insulin in the pancreas. In turn, insulin gets the sugar into the cells producing energy. Simple carbohydrates spike the production of insulin faster, but the sugar is used up more quickly than that of complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates can be simple, those found in fruits, dairy products and other processed and refined foods like white sugar, pasta, white bread, vegetables, milk, milk products and yogurt. They are easily digested by the body. Or they can be complex, like those found in vegetables (cellulose), whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice and legumes. They are generally referred to as “starchy” foods and take longer to digest.
Though you need simple carbohydrates, but you must load up more on the complex types.
They have more vitamins, fiber and mineral – the least processed the better.
What do they do for the body?
As illustrated above, carbohydrates mainly provide energy to the body. But it doesn’t stop there. They also fuel your muscles and your brain, are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Specifically, they perform these additional tasks:
o Regulate your blood’s sugar level so your cells get all the energy they need;
o Provide food for the friendly bacteria in your intestines so they can properly digest the food that you eat;
o Assist in your body’s absorption of calcium;
o Their fibers help lower your cholesterol and regulate your blood pressure.
So why are people crazy about “low carb” diets?
Our bodies are experts in budgeting and energy conversion. Our cells do not store more energy than they need at any given time. Any excess glucose not needed by the cells is converted to glycogen (animal starch) and stored as back-up energy in the liver and muscles. The liver and muscles can store as much as 400 grams of glycogen. Any amount over than these will be converted to fat and stored in your bodies where you want them the least.
Just like anything in life, too much of anything is not good.
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