Carbohydrates: What are they and what is the function?


Carbohydrates: What are they and what is the function?

Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are probably the most important macronutrient in any diet. Whether it's a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, gaining w

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Carbohydrates are probably the most important macronutrient in any diet. Whether it’s a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, gaining weight or losing weight, the timing and amount of carbohydrates in your diet plays a role. In this article we will explain more about the different carbohydrates and the role of carbohydrates in weight loss and weight gain.

What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are macronutrients that provide energy. There are many different names that are sometimes used interchangeably. Think of slow and fast carbohydrates, sugar, table sugar, fruit sugar, simple sugars, multiple sugars. Many terms for the same group, carbohydrates.

The easiest distinction can be made between fast and slow carbohydrates. Also called simple or complex carbohydrates. Fast carbohydrates can be seen on the packaging of food as sugars. The well-known table sugar is a fast carbohydrate. They are called quickly because they are quickly absorbed by the body. The term sugar high also comes from fast carbohydrates. Because your cola is full of fast sugars that are quickly absorbed, you have a fast peak in energy.

Slow or complex carbohydrates are carbohydrates that the body has more difficulty in breaking down. Due to their structure, it takes longer for them to be absorbed and the energy they provide is longer and more constant. Oatmeal is a good example of a source of complex or slow carbohydrates.

The difference between a fast and complex carbohydrate is in the composition. The fast carbohydrates (such as sugar and fruit sugar) are sugars that consist of one or two sugar molecules. The monosaccharides (simple sugars) and disaccharides (consist of two sugar molecules). Complex or slow carbohydrates consist of multiple compounds of monosaccharides or disaccharides.

What is the effect of carbohydrates?
When you consume fast carbohydrates, your blood sugar level rises quickly. In response to this, your body produces insulin. The job of insulin is to control the blood sugar level, the level is lowered. The sugar is taken from your blood and stored in your muscles and liver. If there is no more space there, it is stored in the fat cells. There is often talk of a sugar dip, this can be when insulin has lowered the blood sugar level again. The level is then temporarily so low that you would crave sugar again. Whether this is really the case seems to depend strongly on the individual.

The effect of complex carbohydrates is the same as that of fast carbohydrates. The main difference is that because complex carbohydrates consist of more compounds, it takes longer before they are broken down. Complex carbohydrates gradually enter the blood, so that there is no real peak. The further processing and storage of complex carbohydrates is the same as that of fast carbohydrates.

Sources of carbohydrates
Fast carbohydrates or sugars are easy to spot. The sweeter the product, the greater the chance that it contains fast carbohydrates. Think of sugar, caster sugar, syrup, apples, oranges, honey, jam, candy, raisins, muffins, biscuits, but also, for example, milk. Complex carbohydrates can be found in oatmeal, kidney beans, some vegetables and whole wheat bread.

An easier way to estimate the carbohydrates in a product is the Glycemic Index. The GI provides a score of how quickly the carbohydrates in a food product are absorbed into your bloodstream. The higher the GI, the faster the recording. All information about the glycemic index can be found here.

So far we have not considered one form of carbohydrates, the fiber. Fibers are carbohydrates that provide little to no energy because the body cannot break them down. However, the bacteria in the large intestine can feed on the fibers. This is called fermentation, which creates a small amount of energy and contributes to a healthy intestinal flora. So they provide little to no energy but do make an important contribution to healthy digestion. They also contribute to a full and full feeling after eating. Fibers absorb a lot of water, which increases the volume in the stomach and intestines. There are many different types of fiber and good sources of these are whole grain products, vegetables, fruits and legumes.

Do we need carbohydrates to be healthy?
The main function of carbohydrates in the body is to provide energy. However, carbohydrates are not the only source of energy you get from your diet. For example, fat can also be used for energy. A surplus of energy in your body is therefore stored as a fat reserve.

There are institutions and people who claim that as long as you get enough fat and protein, you should be able to function without carbohydrates. The body is able to produce glucose from protein itself. This process is called gluconeogenesis.

The fact that you can probably do without carbohydrates does not immediately mean that you should do the same. Your brain needs glucose to perform, so it makes sense that there is an emergency mechanism in your body to make that glucose itself. Carbohydrates also help to retain moisture in, for example, the muscles. They also provide immediate energy in efforts. And although you can get that energy partly from fat or even protein, it is not advisable to completely remove carbohydrates from your diet. We even dare to say that this is virtually impossible.

In a healthy diet, you eat fruits and vegetables, both of which contain some amount of carbohydrates. You will not succeed in eating carbohydrates at all, and that is not necessary.

Why a low-carb diet is a good idea
By eating low carbohydrates you automatically reduce the number of unhealthy products you eat. Eating a lot of food that is bad for you is full of sugars. Think of sweets, chocolate, but also, for example, food from the Chinese. Many sauces that come with food are highly processed and full of salt and / or sugar. By eating low carbohydrates you automatically leave those meals.

For many people, a low-carbohydrate diet becomes a lot healthier than they eat now. Another advantage is the large amount of tasty recipes for low-carbohydrate food. These are often full of vegetables and vitamins, which makes them very healthy. A diet that is low in carbohydrates automatically contains more protein and (healthy) fats. That protein and fat makes you feel full earlier and longer, which in turn can prevent you from overeating.

All in all, you do need carbohydrates, you can eat more complex carbohydrates and you will find them in most healthy products such as beans, vegetables and whole grains.

Carbohydrates: What are they and what is the function?