Why Do We Need Carbohydrates In Our Diet – Most of them are based on limiting calories or minimizing the consumption of one of the main macromolecules contained in food – fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Probably the most famous example of this is the Atkins diet, which suggests eliminating carbohydrates from your diet and eating protein and fat.
Although these diet systems have resulted in weight loss for many people, we must be careful not to disturb the balance of the macromolecules we take. After all, the body needs all of them to function properly.
- 1 Why Do We Need Carbohydrates In Our Diet
- 2 Warning Signs You’re Eating Too Many Carbs — Eat This Not That
- 3 What Are Carbs Really, And How Many Should You Eat Each Day?
Why Do We Need Carbohydrates In Our Diet
The media may try to tell you that fat is bad for your health and even sell you “fat-free” foods. However, fats are essential to life because they perform important functions, such as insulating us from the cold and providing cushion for our internal organs. Fat in the brain surrounds neurons and allows electrical signals to travel efficiently, enabling us to think and act quickly. At the cellular level, fats can act as information carriers and are part of the cell membrane. They are also excellent molecules for energy storage. Compared to carbohydrates and proteins, fats contain twice as many calories per gram and can be stored for years.
Why Does My Body Need Carbohydrates?
However, not all fats are created equal. The more harmful fats include saturated fat and trans fat, both of which are usually solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are generally healthier and liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil and fish oil . While society may tell us that fats are bad for you, good fats are essential for life.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. Compared to fats, they are poor molecules for energy storage and are usually used quickly after ingestion. There are many types of complex sugars that can be called “carbohydrates,” but the most basic carbohydrate is glucose. Glucose is constantly converted into ATP, which contains a large amount of energy. Cells use energy from ATP to perform functions, from cell division to sprinting on a track. If the amount of carbohydrates consumed exceeds what is needed for energy expenditure, they are stored as fat for future use. Because of this, many diet plans restrict carbohydrate intake to prevent fat storage.
While proteins can be used as an energy source, the main reason we must ingest proteins is for their nitrogen. Nitrogen is needed to build new proteins and nucleic acids. Nucleic acids (such as DNA) contain our genetic information, which is the blueprint from which proteins are made. The building blocks of proteins are called amino acids. There are 21 amino acids, but our body can only make 12 of them. The other 9, called essential amino acids, must be taken in to make new proteins. Proteins perform various functions in the cell, including moving molecules, signaling to neighboring cells, and DNA replication. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, which are mainly composed of carbon and hydrogen, all proteins contain nitrogen. In the absence of dietary protein, the body will scavenge protein from your muscles to produce DNA and protein for your body’s more important organs .
It is currently recommended that fats make up 20-35% of an adult’s diet, while carbohydrates should make up 45-65% and proteins 10-35% . However, everyone is different, and only a nutritionist can tell you what balance of macromolecules you need. But the next time you’re considering the latest fad diet, remember that your body needs all the macromolecules to function at its best.
How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat In A Day, Are Low Carb Diets Safe And Which Foods Are High In Bad Carbs?
Tags anatomy biology biomedical brain cancer career chronic disease DNA environmental genomics health history infectious disease life hacks meeting a scientist memory mental health neuroscience perception public health school science sleep therapeutic vaccines Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides, long chains of monosaccharides that can be branched or unbranched . The complex carbohydrates you’ll learn about in this book are made entirely of glucose. You can think of them as long chains of glucose. There are three main groups of polysaccharides: starch, glycogen, and fiber.
Starch molecules are found in abundance in grains, legumes, and root vegetables such as potatoes. Amylose, a plant starch, is a linear chain containing hundreds of glucose units. Amylopectin, another plant starch, is a branched chain containing thousands of glucose units. These large starch molecules form crystals and are energy-storing plant molecules. These two starch molecules (amylose and amylopectin) are found together in foods, but the smaller one, amylose, is present in smaller amounts. Eating raw starchy foods provides very little energy because it is difficult for the digestive system to break them down. Cooking destroys the crystalline structure of starch, making it much easier to break down in the human body.
Humans and animals store glucose energy derived from starch in a very large molecule called glycogen. Glycogen has many branches that allow it to be broken down quickly when the body’s cells need energy. In animals (including humans), it is found mainly in liver and muscle tissues.
Dietary fibers are polysaccharides, highly branched and cross-linked. Some dietary fibers are pectin, gum, cellulose, and hemicellulose. Fiber is found in the cell wall of plants, and plants with no or minimal processing are good sources of dietary fiber. Humans do not produce enzymes that can break down dietary fiber; however, bacteria in the large intestine (colon) do. Dietary fiber is very beneficial for our health. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee states that there is sufficient scientific evidence that high-fiber diets reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (1).
Warning Signs You’re Eating Too Many Carbs — Eat This Not That
Dietary fiber is classified as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber turns into a viscous substance when combined with water in the gastrointestinal tract. It slows digestion in the stomach and small intestine and is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. Insoluble fiber is largely undigested by human enzymes or bacteria in the gut. Insoluble fiber can retain water in the colon and help strengthen the muscles of the colon. Both of these functions result in reduced “transit time” in the colon.
The last class of fiber is functional fiber. Functional fibers are added to food and have been shown to benefit human health. Functional fibers can be extracted from plants and purified or made synthetically. An example of a functional fiber is the husk of the psyllium seed. Scientific studies show that eating psyllium seed husks lowers blood cholesterol, and this health claim has been approved by the FDA. Total dietary fiber intake is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber intake.
Although humans lack the enzymes to digest fiber, dietary and functional fibers provide many health benefits. One of the ways that fiber affects your health on a daily basis is through the regularity and ease of bowel movements. Diets with sufficient fiber are associated with regular bowel movements with a healthy consistency that can be passed without straining. Low-fiber diets can lead to difficult, infrequent bowel movements that are difficult to eliminate, known as constipation. The tension that occurs with constipation puts pressure on the walls of the colon and causes the formation of tiny “pouches” called diverticula, as shown in Figure 5.9. Another factor contributing to the formation of diverticula is insufficient muscle tone of the large intestine. If you remember from Chapter 4, your gastrointestinal tract is a hollow muscular tube. Just like the other muscles in your body, the muscles that make up the colon will become weaker and start to work if they are not used very often. Certain types of fiber draw water into the intestines, causing the fiber and stool to swell and soften. This puts pressure on the inside of the intestinal wall, stimulating muscle contraction. You can think of it as resistance training for your colon! In addition, softened stool is easier to eliminate.
Most of the time, diverticula do not cause symptoms and you may not even know they are there, but they can become inflamed when food particles, bacteria, or feces get inside them. This condition is called diverticulitis, and depending on the severity, the affected part of the large intestine may need to be removed if it occurs. Another condition that can occur when a person is constipated and straining to have a bowel movement is hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum that tend to bleed. They may or may not cause pain or discomfort depending on the severity. Although hemorrhoids are not a serious health problem, they can be very uncomfortable for some people and sometimes need to be surgically removed.
What Are Carbs Really, And How Many Should You Eat Each Day?
Diets high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol like glue and prevents the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. Cholesterol is also a component of bile that helps digest fat. Normally, bile is reabsorbed into the bloodstream for processing, but soluble fiber prevents this reabsorption
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