Carbohydrates: The Body's Glucose Suppliers

Plants create carbohydrates as a by-product of the photosynthetic process. Carbohydrates are considered the most abundant organic compound found in nature. Dietary carbohydrates consist of sugars or simple carbohydrates found in white sugar, fructose, honey, and molasses; and complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Chemically speaking, carbohydrates are organic compounds composed of carbon atoms attached to hydrates such as water molecules. Dietary carbohydrates supply the primary source of energy for all physiological processes including the digestion and assimilation of all macronutrients. They are by far, the body's favorite energy source and provide glucose for the body which is its primary fuel source. Eating an excess of simple carbohydrates is one of the single most destructive dietary habit of Western societies. Diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, hypoglycemia and nutritional depletion have all been linked to eating too much sugar or simple starches. While we absolutely must have carbohydrates, the type of carbohydrates we choose to eat makes a profound difference in how our bodies will react. The key to health lies in how much and what kind we choose to eat.
How Much of Our Diet Should Be Made Up of Carbohydrates? The dietary requirements for carbohydrates have not been set by RDA standards. The general consensus is that we eat too many simple carbohydrates and not enough complex ones. Generally speaking, our over-emphasis on protein and simple sugars has resulted in a deficit of consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Many nutritionists recommend increasing our dietary intake of complex carbohydrates to promote good health and for the therapeutic management of various diseases. Americans generally receive approximately 46 percent of their dietary calories from carbohydrates. By contrast, Asian societies eat a diet that is 70 to 80 percent carbohydrate. Again, the type of carbohydrates consumed is very important. One third of the carbohydrates we consume as a nation are comprised of refined and processed sugar products. Refined sugars or white sugar come from cane and beet sources. Processed sugars include corn sugar, corn syrup, molasses and honey. Natural sugars are found in fruits, fruit juices and vegetables. Remember that all sugars are not metabolized in the same way by the body. While all carbohydrates may eventually raise blood sugar as glucose, the speed in which they are assimilated can have far-reaching health effects when it comes to insulin disorders or diseases like hypoglycemia and diabetes. Dietary carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, and once in the body they are either burned as fuel or stored as glycogen reserves in the muscle and liver. Though it is true that over the last few decades nutritionists have advised us to eat more carbohydrates and less fats and protein, eating a fatless diet that is high in simple sugars can initiate significant weight gain, predispose us to elevated blood cholesterol and defeat the entire reason we cut down on fats to begin with. Nonfat or low-fat foods high in sugar calories can be even more fattening and less satisfying than some fat-containing foods. Moreover, we must have a certain percentage of lipid consumption to be healthy and slender

Information provided is intended to provide an electronic reference library about nutrition and health. The views expressed in this or other sections of this site, have not been independently researched or confirmed.
Updated on : 2/19/2012 6:18:52 PM
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