Carbohydrates, according to nutritional experts and dieticians are often considered to be ‘bad’ as nutrients but recent studies are revealing that carbohydrates, though can be sometimes considered to be ‘controversial’ but can be consumed safely. Some tend to prefer a low- carbohydrate diet, while others have high amounts of carbohydrates. But according to experts, we should keep in mind that we should consume carbohydrates in our daily diets in moderation, to keep the healthy functioning of the overall body and keep your body fit and healthy.
All You Need to Know About Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are classes of naturally occurring, plant-based macronutrients (micronutrients- nutrients that are needed in very small quantities in your diet, and they include vitamins and minerals), apart from the two other vital micronutrients like fat and protein that are biologically found in nature in the form of organic molecules, bonded together with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are often found in the form of complex, organic substances in various plant-based foods, and in the form of added preservatives in various packaged foods and beverages.
Carbohydrates can be of two forms- simple and complex. Complex carbohydrates are not digested easily as they are made up of nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other valuable nutrients, while simple carbohydrates digest quickly and can spike your blood sugar levels, causing calorie surplus in your body, leading to weight gain or obesity.
In this context, experts recommend that the correct amount of consumption of carbohydrate-containing foods is around 130 grams of serving each day, which can result in about 45% to 65% of their total calorie add-on for the day.
But one should always keep in mind that the foods you consume should contain healthier complex carbohydrates.
The Different Types of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can be found among a few foods that we consume in our everyday diet. Generally, these carbohydrates are of three types. These types are listed below:
Sugars: Carbohydrates that are found in sugar are mainly in the form of simple carbohydrates. Sugars are present in a good number of foods, for example, fruits contain simple carbohydrate sugar in the form of fructose, while milk and other dairy products like ghee, butter, cheese, and so on contain natural sugar in the form of lactose. Several food companies produce preservatives and beverages in which they put added sugars.
Starch: When many sugar molecules add up and combine, they form a starch molecule. So, starches are organic complex carbohydrate molecules. These compounds are commonly found in grains like rice, maize, and vegetables like potatoes, beans, peas, sweet potatoes, and other leguminous plants.
Fiber: Fiber is a form of roughage, and it is a type of complex carbohydrate that is not fully digested because it cannot be further broken down into simpler carbohydrates. Fiber is found mainly in several plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, and whole grains like oats, maize, and so on.
Various Functions of Carbohydrates:
We know that carbohydrate is an essential component for maintaining a healthy body and its proper functioning. Here are some of the crucial functions that are performed by carbohydrates.
1. Provides A Lot of Energy
Carbohydrates are known as “the powerhouse of energy”. It not only keeps out your fatigue but also keeps you moving by providing you with a lot of stored energy. So supplying your body with large amounts of energy is one of the most important functions of carbohydrates. Moreover, carbohydrates contain an essential substance known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary component from which carbohydrate provides energy to your body. When you consume some carbohydrates-containing foods, they are further broken down into smaller pieces, releasing glucose into your bloodstream. This glucose molecule is further used by your body cells for cellular respiration and thus for gaining energy (1).
2. Takes Care of Your Muscles
Our body stores glucose in the form of ‘glycogen’ that not only helps in free movement and locomotion, but it is also essential to regulate the proper functioning of all the parts of our body. If your body lacks enough glucose content you will not only become weak and tired but also your bones and muscles will become fragile, which will affect your body movement in the long run. Proper levels of carbohydrates are essential enough to maintain proper muscle movements and for maintaining muscle mass thus will be a lesser chance of muscle breakdown (2).
3. Improves Your Digestive System
Insoluble and complex carbohydrates like fiber are mainly of two main types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in oats, several leguminous plant-based foods, and several fruits and some green vegetables. After intake of soluble fiber, it combines with water and enters your intestine in a gel-like form. People who reportedly suffer from constipation can have this in their diet because this gel-textured soluble fiber helps in regulating gut movement by promoting the easy flow of stool through your intestinal tract and thus gives you regularly. A recent study experimented over around 40,000 people in the United States found that those who consumed moderate amounts of carbohydrates including insoluble dietary fibers in their regular diets have reduced their risks of developing diverticular disease, a type of disease that affects the normal functioning of your intestine by 37%. (3)
4. Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Carbohydrates when consumed in moderation are known to reduce the risks of developing serious heart disorders like heart attack, cardiac arrest, strokes, and so on. The health extracts present in carbohydrates, for instance in fiber help to improve digestion and improve your immunity. Moreover, carbohydrates contain health components that are known to lower down the levels of “bad” or LDL cholesterol by 7% and thus reduce the chances of developing harmful heart diseases by 9%. New US-based studies are showing that those who consume carbohydrates in moderation through their everyday diet have significantly reduced the chances of developing heart attacks or any sort of heart-related disease. Not only that, but people with high blood pressure have also now improved blood pressure levels after moderate consumption of carbohydrates. (4)
Why Should You Not Have Too Much Carbohydrate?
As the saying goes, too much of anything is not good at all. Experts always advise you to have carbohydrates in moderation throughout your diet. Especially, those who have diseases like type 2 diabetes or related disorders you should strictly limit your carbohydrate intake or talk to your medical caregiver before deciding the consumption proportions. It has reportedly been found that when carbohydrates break down into glucose, they increase your blood sugar levels and thus can worsen your diabetic conditions. This further causes more synthesis of insulin and more glucose is derived from the stored fats and can result in several lethal conditions in your body.
People with diabetes or with high blood sugar levels should not only check their carbohydrate intake but must also investigate their glycemic load and keep a note of their glycemic indices.
Experts opine that it is always preferable to avoid foods that are high in glycemic content. Some of these are listed here:
- Candy bars
- White rice
- Highly processed breakfast cereals
- French fries
- Baked potatoes
Lack Of Carbs is Bad Too?
Though too many carbohydrates can be harmful to your body, lack of carbohydrates can be troublesome too. For instance, if your body lacks essential carbohydrates like fiber and many such related nutrients, you are likely to suffer from constipation and many such difficulties. Also, if you do not have enough carbohydrates through your diet, your body will experience fatigue as there will be nothing to provide sufficient energy apart from protein or fat which is not only unhealthy for your body but will also affect the proper functioning of your body.
What Is the Exact Amount of Carb for You?
It has been found that some oppose the consumption of high amounts of carbohydrates, while others consider having it. But the correct amount of carbohydrate that your body needs essentially depends on several factors like your age, gender, body weight, and many others. You can derive optimum amounts of the nutrient from fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and milk products and you should try to have them in moderation to keep correct proportions of carbohydrates in your body.
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