Carbohydrates, also called carbs or saccharides, are a group of organic compounds containing hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. Although its name might suggest it, they are not really hydrated carbon molecules.
They are the most abundant organic compounds in nature. They appear in the animal and plant kingdoms, from the photosynthesis of plants and bacteria from carbon dioxide and water with the help of sunlight.
Carbohydrates constitute, along with proteins and the fats, the main nutrients.
Properties of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, along with lipids or fats and proteins provide the fuel that burns to get the necessary energy (calories) for the body to function properly. The calories needed of each individual depend on the type of work done, but overall, if moderate activity, an adult male needs between 2500 and 4000 and a woman between 2100 and 3000. Carbohydrates and proteins provide fewer calories than fat (4 calories per gram of the first compared to 9 calories derived from fats.)
The main function of carbohydrates or carbohydrate is to provide and store energy. The body needs approximately 100 g carbohydrate daily. Are very important in the global food and they represent over 55% of the total food supply in the developed countries and more than 80% in developing countries. Their origin is of plant origin and not found in animal products except milk and eggs.
Carbohydrates can perform other non-energy functions. Sometimes carbohydrates have a structural function as the cells that form the structure of plant cell wall or chitin that forms the outer structure of the arthropods. Sometimes the carbohydrates are part of the genetic code, as with the ribose. The glycocalyx is a carbohydrate with a very different function because it allows cells to recognize and distinguish between them that may be invasive or diseased.
The following table shows the main types of carbohydrates and some of its features according to a dietary standpoint.
TYPES OF CARBOHYDRATES
Function in vegetables
They constitute the elements of reserve of vegetables (starch)
They use them to form the vegetal structure. (They are classified in simple - fructose, glucose and galactose- and complexes (maltose or sucrose.)
Must be cooked before eating to help assimilate them. Are indigestible if eaten raw.
Digestion is slow and the contribution of sugar to the blood becomes gradually.
They can be eaten raw or cooked, are easily accessible and provide quick energy.
How does the body assimilate them?
In the body they break down into glucose which is used for combustion cell, or as a reserve substance in the form of glycogen in the liver or muscles. The remaining amount is stored as reserve substance in the form of fat.
The carbohydrates are considered simple and complex carbohydrates.
From a scientific point of view, the simple carbohydrates are exclusively made up of simple sugar molecules. They are known as monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are simple carbohydrates. They contain between 3 and 6 carbon atoms and are characterized by not decomposing into simpler ones, that is to say they do not hydrolyze.
From a dietary standpoint, monosaccharides (single sugar molecule) and disaccharides (consisting of two simple sugar molecules together) can be considered simple carbohydrates. Disaccharides hydrolyze (break down) producing two monosaccharides.
From a scientific point of view, complex carbohydrates are composed of disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides as opposed to simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides.
Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates that contain between 3 and 10 monosaccharides. Polysaccharides are carbohydrates are formed by the union of many monosaccharides or disaccharides.
(More information on carbohydrates simple and complex in the listing above)
Importance of carbohydrates in the daily diet
Carbohydrates must play a fundamental role in the daily diet as energy suppliers. Are generally recommended for the daily diet the following proportions of foods that provide energy:
- A 55% of carbohydrates (glucides)
- A 30% of fats (lipid)
- A 15% of protein
However, the importance of these foods in the diet is so crucial that the proportion of carbohydrate versus fat and protein could still be higher. According to the World Health Organization foods rich in carbohydrates should cover between 55 and 75% of all energy foods included.
Metabolism of carbohydrates
The proper functioning of the metabolism of carbohydrates, along with the proper metabolism of other nutrients, allowing the body to enjoy good health. Properly digesting and assimilating carbohydrates primarily allow us to obtain energy from food in a rational manner.
Thus the body may have appropriate biological fuel to provide the necessary energy to cells, thus allowing the muscle work as a series of activities of the basal metabolism (maintaining proper body temperature, to achieve the proper functioning of the intestine, achieve sufficient blood pressure in the arteries or the proper function of neurons, keeping the breath, etc)
In addition to providing adequate energy, carbohydrates can be stored as glycogen from excess glucose in the liver and muscles. The body may have this book in emergency situations by transforming it back into glucose.
The incorrect metabolism of carbohydrates can be responsible for some metabolic diseases. Among them, obesity is one of most common. A very slow metabolism, along with other factors such as sedentary lifestyle, poor diet or stress, are the most common causes of overweight or obesity.
In this case, it so important to calculate the calories that give us energy foods such as choosing foods rich in carbohydrates suitable to provide us an adequate calories more efficiently. These practices if they are carried out regularly, along with other dietary and life as an adequate daily physical activity, are part of what is known as accelerating the metabolism, a process that allows "burn" more calories so that they are not stored in the form of fat.
Simple carbohydrates in front of complex carbohydrates
Among the carbohydrates, it is best to choose as food complex carbohydrates to simple carbohydrates. That is to say, those that are absorbed more slowly in front of those quick absorption.
Foods such as sugar, bakery products, products made with refined flour, sweets, ice cream or fruit and fruit juices are high in simple carbohydrates. All of them, except for fruit and fruit juices are recognized dietetically as "empty calories" or "zero calories" foods; it means that is high in calories but lacks other much needed nutrients for good health. (More information on this topic)
The importance of cellulose
Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate such that plants use to build your frame. Human enzymes can not break them down so they are not digestible and are passed to defecation in the form of fiber.
The importance of vegetal fibers in the health has been verified because they avoid constipation, eliminates toxins from the intestines and create a feeling of fullness helping to eat fewer calories favoring the non-appearance of obesity. (More information on benefits of dietary fiber)