Carbohydrates-Part 1

The first nutrient that is to be demystified is Carbohydrates.I have tried to put it into simple terms and since nutrition is a vast topic,I will just talk about the important and interesting facts and I also plan to give some sample menus at the end of each topic as well..Happy reading....

* Carbohydrates are a class of energy yielding substances that include

-Cane sugar
-Sugar etc.

* Carbohydrates from the cereals form the chief source of energy. Food grains, roots and tuber are mainly composed of starch- a complex carbohydrate. Simple sugars like cane sugar and glucose are pure carbohydrates.

* Starches when consumed are digested and release glucose that provides energy to the body

* There is no difference between the starches derived from different sources.

* Besides the digestible carbohydrates there are some non digestible carbohydrates that we like to have in our diet- Yes, Dietary fiber…Dietary fiber or unavailable carbohydrates in technical terms, is one kind of carbohydrate.

Functions of carbohydrates

1. Provide energy

Any type of carbohydrate that we take in is broken down to glucose which is the primary source of energy for the body.

2. Sparing the use of proteins for energy

Though carbohydrates are the major sources of energy, in times of fasting or staying without food/carbohydrates for a longer period, the proteins which are essential for body building turn to become energy providers thereby hindering tissue development.

3. Breakdown of fatty acids and preventing ketosis

When there is an inadequate supply of carbohydrates, fats may also be used as an energy source and the breakdown of fats leads to the formation of ‘ketone bodies’ in the blood which is leads to a dangerous condition called ‘ketosis’.One of the ways to diagnose Ketosis is by the odors on the breath and in the urine.To prevent ketosis we need to take at least 50-100 grams of carbohydrates per day in our diet.

4. Flavor and Sweeteners

Apart from the major role of being the energy provider, carbohydrates also have a less important role as a sweetener. Different sugars vary in their degree of sweetness.

5. Dietary fiber

Sometimes called a ‘dieter’s boon’ is essential for everyone. It includes

§ Cellulose

§ Hemicellulose

§ Pectins

§ Gums

§ Lignins

Ø Though dietary fiber does not contribute to the nutritive value of the food stuff, it is necessary to provide the bulk in the diet

Ø Lack of dietary fiber in the diet is mainly due to the use of refined foods which leads to constipation and increases the chances of colon cancer

Ø Dietary fiber is very beneficial as they lower blood cholesterol, blood glucose[essential in diabetic control].

Ø Generous portions of vegetables, green leafy vegetables, fruits,unrefined cereals are to be included in the menu to achieve a diet sufficient in dietary fiber.

Stay tuned for more facts on Carbohydrates....