Carbohydrates- their role in nutrition and how they impact the organism

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Article written in collaboration with Alina Tomoiaga, Nutrition Technician.

Our main responsibility is to ourselves, the way we relate to ourselves through the actions we take. This is also reflected in the food we eat, ergo how we take care of our health.

The fact that you are concerned for your health and you are looking to find information on this topic, even the fact that you are reading this article is a joyful thing because it shows that you care.

Because we want to support you with complex information about nutrition, we invited Alina Tomoiaga, Nutriento nutrition technician, to help us explain the components of nutrition as best as possible.

She suggested we start at the very beginning and to discuss the needs of the organism regarding the provision of energy, especially from carbohydrates, fats, and protein. We will also talk about the way we ensure the full functionality of our body at the optimal levels with the help of vitamins and mineral salts.

This article is part of a series that is set to explore in detail the categories mentioned above. Today we are looking into carbs, these necessary macronutrients, the ones that are absolutely vital and those that we must actively avoid. 

Before we go any further, let us start by telling you that a healthy diet is the result of a variety of foods that must include all essential nutrients.

Carbs are the main class of macronutrients and the origin of the name comes from the Greek “glikis” that is translated as “sweet”. They are a main source of energy for the organism, as one gram of carbs gives the body four calories, thus quickly releasing energy. 

Apart from their energy role, carbohydrates are indispensable for metabolizing fats and proteins. Some carbohydrates such as cellulose and hemicellulose do not undergo degradation in the body due to their fibrous consistency, but rather, they stimulate digestion.

They are mainly found in vegetable ingredients and only to a small extent in animal ones. The most important vegetable sources of carbohydrates are represented by sugar (100% carbohydrates) and its derivatives (60-90% carbohydrates), flour and dried vegetables (50-70%), bread (55%) and potatoes (20%). Fresh fruits contain 10-20% carbohydrates, dried vegetables contain 50-70% carbohydrates.

Green veggies contain a smaller amount of absorbable carbs due to the dietary fiber they contain and the multiple health benefits they present. The most important sources of dietary fiber are: bran (44%), wholemeal bread (9.51%), intermediate bread (7.83%), beans (7.27) and fruit peels.

This vast class of nutrients is divided as simple carbohydrates (consisting of disaccharides) and complex carbohydrates (consisting of monosaccharides and polysaccharides). And here comes the answer to the time old question “Which carbs are good?” by letting you know it is complex carbs.

Most importantly, we need to pay attention to the type of carbohydrate we choose to eat as some are healthier than others.

UNHEALTHY SOURCES of carbs such as white bread, pastries, refreshments and other highly processed or refined foods contain easily digestible carbs that may contribute to gaining weight and promote diabetes as well as heart disease.

THE HEALTHIEST SOURCES of carbs that promote a healthy lifestyle with the aid of vitamins, minerals, fiber include whole cereals that are unprocessed or minimally processed such as vegetables, fruits and beans.

The categories that make up carbs are:

I.Monosaccharides that are defined as simple carbs. This category consists of:

Glucose which is a result of processing natural ingredients, as they are an important source of energy.

Fructose which is found particularly in fruits and honey and which ensures the necessary intake of vitamins and minerals. At the same time, it helps keep the blood sugar levels low, yet overeating it may lead to diabetes, various heart diseases or diseases of the liver.

II.Disaccharides are a result of combining monosaccharides in various quantities. This category includes:

Lactose which is found in milk and in milk products. It is a necessary nutritional element that helps the development of infants and it can come from both animal and plant sources. Once matured, the organism can no longer process it and this is a result of the body no longer needing its nutritional values, hence leading to lactose intolerance. Yet we are the only species to consume the milk of other mammals.

Sucrose is extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet. It is used as a sweetener as well as a preservative. In its natural state, it is beneficial to the organism and tastes sweet. Once processed (aka after it becomes the sugar we all came to know), it no longer carries properties that are beneficial to the body, thus its consumption is not recommended. 

III.Polysaccharides are complex composites that contain a large number of monosaccharides which are a necessity in ensuring healthy nutrition. Here is what it consists of:

Starch that will become glucose when consumed and can be found in a number of seeds, fruits and roots (particularly tubers)

Cellulose which is highly vast in nature and it is part of the composition of the supporting structures of plants. However, cellulose is not digested, yet it is absolutely necessary to include it in your diet as it acts as a driver of the organism. 

Glycogen acts as a backup for carbs and it is stored in the liver and muscles.

Lastly, the necessary daily intake is linked to one’s current physical state and it is directly proportional to the physical efforts made. Infants need around 10-12 grams of carbs daily per each kilogram of their bodies. Children, teenagers and parents need around 55% carbs of their daily intake, whereas elders need around 59% carbs of their daily intake.

Make sure to come back to our blog for periodic updates on nutrition information and tips, health, sports and overall a good sustainable lifestyle.


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