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Carbohydrates; Functions in the Body and Daily Needs

Functions of Carbohydrates in the Body

There are two types of carbohydrates, digestible and indigestible. The body provides energy from digestible carbohydrates. Indigestible carbohydrates known as dietary fiber have positive effects on digestion.

In short, carbohydrates have three important functions in the body. First, it is the body’s primary source of energy.

Secondly, it is used as a building material in all tissues and cells of the body in the form of glycoprotein and glycolipid.

The third is the positive effects of dietary fibers, which are indigestible carbohydrates, on digestion.

The compound that we can call the body’s primary fuel is glucose. As our body can obtain glucose from the foods we consume, the body also can convert proteins and fats into glucose.

Therefore, glucose is not a mandatory nutrient for the body to be consumed. However, if enough carbohydrates are not consumed, the body meets its energy needs from proteins and stored fats. This may cause the consumed protein not to be used in its primary functions.

It is generally emphasized that it is appropriate to meet 50% of the daily energy need from carbohydrates in nutrition. From this point of view, a healthy individual who spends 2000 calories a day should provide half of this energy need, i.e., 1000 calories, from carbohydrates in the foods he consumes.

Considering that 1 gram of carbohydrate provides four calories of energy, this individual should consume 250 grams of carbohydrates daily. This amount may seem excessive, but it should be known that the brain needs up to 140 grams of glucose per day to carry out its daily activities.

Similarly, since carbohydrate monomers are located in the structure of cells, carbohydrate consumption is necessary for the continuation of body health.

Foods rich in carbohydrates

Meat and meat products generally do not contain carbohydrates. From animal products, the liver contains up to 6% carbohydrates in the form of glycogen.

However, about 75% of honey consists of carbohydrates. Honey contains mainly fructose.

Approximately 4.7% of milk consists of carbohydrates (lactose).

The primary source of carbohydrates is plant foods. There are 20 grams of carbohydrates in a slice of bread, 25 grams in 100 grams of pasta (cooked) and about 30 grams of carbohydrates in 100 grams of rice (cooked).

It can be said that granulated sugar is 100% pure carbohydrates. Although granulated sugar consumption has a history of 2000 years, it is thought that the views on reducing granulated sugar consumption are correct today.

On the other hand, it should be considered that the consumption of whole wheat bread, which contains all parts of the wheat, will be more reasonable in terms of individual and public health compared to white bread.

Carbohydrate content of various food sources
Carbohydrate content of various food sources

Dietary fibers

The third important function of carbohydrates in the body is occured by “dietary fibers”. Dietary fiber is a general name given to carbohydrates such as cellulose, pectin, hemicellulose and lignin that cannot be digested by the body and can’t use as an energy source.

Dietary fiber does not give energy but provides a feeling of satiety; regulates digestion and absorption metabolism. However, it supports intestinal health by showing a prebiotic effect for probiotic bacteria in the large intestine.

Dietary fiber is not found in animal foods. The most important dietary fiber source food groups are legumes, nuts, cereal products, vegetables and fruits. Daily consumption of 20-28 g of dietary fiber is extremely positive for health.

However, excessive consumption of dietary fiber reduces the absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients from the intestine and invites significant ailments. Therefore, the ideal daily consumption amount of 20-28 grams should not be exceeded; 50 g daily consumption has very adverse effects on health.

Dietary fiber content of various food sources
The dietary fiber content of various food sources

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