Carbohydrates are fundamental for the human being. They are the source of energy of the brain and other nervous tissues. They are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Subsequently, they are transformed into glucose and produce energy. In this article we explain what types of carbohydrates are and what their functions in the body are. Keep reading!
Carbohydrates, especially glucose and glycogen, are the energy source from which the body is supplied. With it you can perform the different activities that the human body executes.
“They are so important that muscle fatigue is associated with the lack of availability of carbohydrates”.
Therefore, an adequate amount of glucose is key to perform a specific physical exercise with the appropriate intensity. This is because the oxidation of proteins and fats produces a lower amount of energy than carbohydrates.
Types of Carbohydrates
There are different classifications of carbohydrates. Considering the number of glucose molecules, simple carbohydrates and complexes can be distinguished:
- Simple carbohydrates: within these are the monosaccharides – composed of a unit of glucose – such as glucose, fructose and sucrose; and disaccharides – composed of two glucose units -, such as lactose, galactose and maltose. Some foods rich in simple carbohydrates are: sugar, either white or brown, honey, molasses and fruit juices. Likewise, simple carbohydrates can have fibers or not have them.
- Complex carbohydrates: also called polysaccharides, are composed of many glucose units linked together that form very long chains, such as starch or fibers. Some foods rich in complex carbohydrates are wheat, rice, barley, potatoes, chickpeas or green beans.
Functions of Carbohydrates
As we have said, the main function that carbohydrates fulfill is the contribution of the necessary energy. However, they also contribute to other tasks related to good health:
- Energy contribution: carbohydrates function as an energy reserve, and can be used immediately. The energy pantries have the ability to move quickly to produce glucose if necessary. This function makes the contribution of carbohydrates have to be daily.
- Saving of proteins: when carbohydrates are used as an energy source of the organism, the use of proteins for this purpose is left aside. In this way, they can be used for many other functions.
- Formation of important tissues: carbohydrates are an essential part of connective and nervous tissues. In addition, they are also found in DNA molecules and adenosine triphosphate or ATP, a nucleotide needed for energy.
- Help against ketone bodies: When the body does not have enough carbohydrates for energy, the body uses fat instead. Therefore, debris is produced which is known as “ketone bodies”. These, if present in abundance, can cause cardiac arrhythmias and possible osteoporosis.
Carbohydrates as Regulators of the Organism
In addition to participating in all the above tasks, cellulose or dietary fiber is responsible for regulating intestinal transit. This, therefore, entails other beneficial effects for health, such as:
- Decreased constipation by softening the stool and increasing its volume.
- Increased satiety, which allows better control of food intakes.
- Slowing of the emptying of the stomach, which allows a better management of the ingested food.
- Decreased absorption of substances such as cholesterol.
- In the case of diabetic people, it allows decreasing blood sugar increases, allowing better control over this factor.
- Protective effects against colon cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Due to all these beneficial effects on the organism, the importance of a frequent intake of carbohydrates is clear. This type of food will be the basis of a healthy and adequate diet for frequent physical activity.
However, they should be consumed in their proper measure to avoid an excessive intake of calories. This would be counterproductive to a healthy diet.
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