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Role of Carbohydrates in human body

Every thing about Role of Carbohydrates in human body | Vahrehvah :

There is myth amongst many of us that carbohydrates are bad but carbohydrates are basically sugar and starch. Carbohydrates are critical to support life’s most basic function like the production of energy. But we must also understand that carbs should be taken in the right amount or else in the long run will lead to health problems.


In fact, our body requires carbohydrates to function well. It provides the body with glucose it needs to function properly. They are a type of macronutrient found in many foods and beverages. Most carbohydrates naturally occur in plant based foods such as grains.


Types of Carbohydrates:

  • Complex carbohydrates: These are found in unprocessed grains such as oatmeal and brown rice as they contain fiber and other nutrients vital to the body. They are mostly found in plant food. They form the starches that plants use to store energy as well as the cellulose that forms the structure of plants. Complex carbs should make up about ½ of your daily food intake, since they are your body’s primary source of fuel.
  • Simple carbohydrates: Simple carbohydrates are a major source of energy for the body and are found in many nutrient-dense foods, including fruit, fruit juice and dairy products. All of these foods also contain a substantial amount of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and should be consumed as part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. Foods rich in white flour and added sugars are called bad carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are also divided into three sections:


  • Sugar: It is the simplest forms of carbohydrates. It occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Sugars include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose).
  • Starch: This is made of sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
  • Fiber: Is also made of sugar units bonded together. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas are among foods that are naturally rich in fiber.


Where are Carbohydrates found in the body? Carbohydrates are stored in the body in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. Additional carbohydrates are stored in the body as fat. Foods like starchy foods, sugar, fruits, breads and grains are rich in carbohydrates.


Why do we need Carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are the macronutrient that we need in the largest amounts. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes, it is said that 45% - 65% of calories should come from carbohydrate.

We need this amount of carbohydrate because:

  • Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel.
  • They are easily used by the body for energy.
  • All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy.
  • Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, and muscles (including the heart) to function properly.
  • Carbs can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy.
  • They are important in intestinal health and waste elimination.
  • Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts.


Functions of Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates have six major functions within the body:

  1. Providing energy and regulation of blood glucose.
  2. Sparing the use of proteins for energy.
  3. Breakdown of fatty acids and preventing ketosis.
  4. Biological recognition processes.
  5. Flavor and Sweeteners.
  6. Dietary fiber.


List of foods containing Carbohydrates: Below listed are some foods that contain complex carbohydrates. Fruits and Vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates. They also contain some naturally occurring simple carbohydrates, like glucose.


Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, high levels of starches and other complex carbs, and may also contain fat and protein. Fruits and vegetables that contain complex carbohydrates include potatoes, beans, carrots, okra, zucchini, cucumbers, radish, yam, onions, tomatoes, apples, strawberries etc.


Green vegetables, like spinach, green beans and broccoli, contain complex carbohydrates, but also contain very high levels of fiber. Fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants as well as complex carbohydrates. Whole grains are excellent source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber.


While all grains contain high levels of complex carbs, whole grains also provide large amounts of fiber. Grains that contain high levels of complex carbohydrates include rice, corn, wheat, oats, barley etc. Grains should form the basis of your main diet as a healthy diet high in complex carbs will be high in grains.


Whole grain breads and pastas are very high in complex carbs. Breads made with refined white and wheat flours are high in simple carbs and should be avoided, breads made with whole grains offer high levels of complex carbs to give you energy and regulate your blood sugar.


These foods are also high in fiber, which is good for digestion, and helps you feel fuller longer after eating, so that you'll be less tempted towards snacks or junk food. Nuts, grains, and legumes are very high in complex carbohydrates.


These foods also contain protein, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and a range of vitamins and minerals. As they are high in fiber, they aid digestion and help maintain a healthy weight. Nuts, seeds and legumes high in complex carbohydrates are chick peas, soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, and split peas etc.


Dairy products are high in complex carbohydrates, but you could choose healthier low-fat dairy products to prevent high cholesterol and other side effects of a high-fat diet. Soy milk, low-fat yogurt and skim milk are all good choices for adding complex carbohydrates to your diet.


Foods highest in Carbohydrates (Limit them or Avoid): Excessive consumption of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates like sugar or corn syrup, can lead to obesity, type II diabetes, and cancer. Below is a list of foods highest in carbohydrates, almost all these foods should be avoided.

  • Fructose and granulated sugars
  • Candies, Gummies and powder drinks
  • Sugary cereals
  • Dried fruits like apples, bananas, dates and plums are all high in carbohydrates.
  • Potato Chips, potato wedges, French fries and rice cakes etc.
  • Cakes, pastries, cookies, breads and pizzas.
  • Readymade relish, preserves, sweet spreads and jams.
  • Salad dressings, readymade sweet pickles and sauces.


As India is said to be on the verge on an obesity epidemic, it is important that every individual must have a balanced diet that provides sufficient amounts of carbohydrates that keeps your body from eating its own muscles while a rich carbohydrate diet is sometimes described as protein sparing. It is said that a body can pack about 400 grams (14 ounces) of glycogen into liver and muscle cells.


A gram of carbohydrates — including glucose — has four calories. If you add up all the glucose stored in glycogen to the small amount of glucose in your cells and blood, it equals about 1,800 calories of energy. If your diet provides more carbohydrates than you need to produce this amount of stored calories in the form of glucose and glycogen in your cells, blood, muscles, and liver, the excess will be converted to fat and this would naturally end up in obesity.


Hence it’s very important to manage and follow a right diet.  Remember to be choosy while eating simple carbohydrates, eat more complex carbs, and use portion control. Be more creative in making your meals right, give up sedentary lifestyle and exercise regularly which will keep you fit and going strong.


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