The Importance of Carbohydrates

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The Importance of Carbohydrates

No-carb or low carb diet fads are among the most recent diet fads out there that the public has latched on to. The idea is that reducing or even limiting the amount of carbohydrates you consume on a daily basis will help you to drop pounds quickly. Advocates for low-carb or no-carb diets believe that consuming carbohydrates is bad because carbohydrates stay in your system and are not easily digested, so those carbs turn to fat in the body and the body does not digest carbohydrates already present. The suggestion is that if you starve your body of carbohydrates it will begin to consume the stored carbohydrates already in your body and you will begin to shed those nasty unwanted pounds. Are carbohydrates really that villainous? Should we be avoiding carbohydrates at all costs or do they serve a necessary function within our bodies? I think the answer can be found by determining how our bodies use carbohydrates and the importance of carbohydrates to our over-all health. Sugars, starches and fibers make up the carbohydrates that we consume and that we find in our bodies. Chemically speaking and according to Grosvenor, M. B. and Smolin, L. A. (2006), “they are compounds that contain carbon (carbo), as well as hydrogen and oxygen in the same proportion as in water (hydrate).” Sugars are considered simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides, while fibers and starches are considered complex carbohydrates or disaccharides (Grosvenor, 2006). We find simple sugars or simple carbohydrates in fruits, vegetables and even in milk. On the other hand, we find certain complex carbohydrates in starchy foods like potatoes, onions and legumes. There are three common types of simple carbohydrates in our diets; these are glucose, fructose and galactose (Grosvenor, 2006). We find glucose in starchy foods, fructose in fruits and vegetables and galactose in milk. Likewise there are two very common types of carbohydrates that our bodies use; these are glycogen and starch. We get starch from foods that store up carbohydrates. Potatoes and other “tubers” store up carbohydrates and use the energy from them for the energy to reproduce and grow. Just like potatoes create starch (storage for carbohydrates) and use carbs to reproduce and grow, our bodies use carbohydrates for energy. When we eat our bodies absorb simple carbohydrates in to our livers and in to our blood. What happen is; enzymes like maltase, sucrase and lactase breakdown the carbs we consume in to the simple sugars or monosaccharides; glucose, fructose and galactose (Grosvenor, 2006). These simple sugars are then absorbed and transported to the liver. Our bodies turn fructose and galactose in to energy or glucose. Glucose is then stored or enters the blood to be transported to cell throughout the body and our bodies use glucose for growth and energy (Grosvenor, 2006). When we have trouble with the digestion of the simple sugar lactose, or when our bodies produce too much or too little of the simple sugar glucose, we are at risk or may suffer from certain disorders, like lactose intolerance, diabetes or hypoglycemia. Millions of people (mainly adults) in the world are lactose intolerant (Smith, 2010). It is a disorder so common we hear it discussed and see remedies advertised everywhere. When someone is lactose intolerant it means that their body does not produce enough of the enzyme lactase which is used to help digest the simple sugar derived from primarily milk products known as lactose. As newborns we produce an abundance of the enzyme lactase and are capable of comfortably digesting large quantities of milk, but as we get older our bodies steadily decrease the production of lactase (Grosvenor, 2006). In some people the production diminishes so quickly that as adults they are no longer able to “stomach” milk products without experiencing discomfort like gas, bloating and even diarrhea. For this reason, many adults consume soy...
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