Carbohydrates have 6 major functions

BY MISSY CORRIGAN
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 3/14/18

Some professionals blame carbohydrates for obesity and their related diseases, leading many dieters to think that carbohydrates are inherently bad for the body. However, this mindset contributes to a disordered eating pattern and may lead to poor …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Carbohydrates have 6 major functions

Posted

Some professionals blame carbohydrates for obesity and their related diseases, leading many dieters to think that carbohydrates are inherently bad for the body. However, this mindset contributes to a disordered eating pattern and may lead to poor physical or mental health outcomes. While foods made mostly from refined carbs can be harmful in large amounts, there are many whole food sources of carbs that are extremely healthy, providing essential vitamins and nutrients.

Carbohydrates have six major functions in the body: providing energy, regulating blood glucose, sparing the use of proteins for energy, breaking down fatty acids, providing dietary fiber and natural sweetener for foods. All the cells and tissues in the human body need carbs, especially the brain. This type of energy can be found in foods like fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, whole grains and dairy. The body breaks these foods down to make glucose, the body's primary energy source.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates like fruit, dairy and candies or cookies are digested and absorbed quickly. Complex carbohydrates such as starches, vegetables and whole grains break down more slowly and are absorbed at a slower rate. Most complex carbohydrates contain dietary fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system. The type of carbohydrates you choose to eat determines the quality of the nutrients you receive.

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the decades due to increased rates of obesity and their related metabolic disorders. No-carb/low-carb diets lead the way for promoting weight loss and better health. Food manufacturers have jumped on the opportunity to promote foods by creating NET carbs, also known as active or impact carbs. By subtracting the dietary fiber from the total carbohydrate count, manufacturers promote NET carbs on their food packaging, which can be misleading for carb-conscious dieters.

The human body recognizes all carbohydrates that are consumed and uses them for different purposes. One cannot cancel out the other, and eating more dietary fiber does not give you the freedom to eat more of any other type of carbohydrate. The Food and Drug Administration does not recognize NET carbs; however, it requires that dietary fiber and sugars are listed on food labels.

When you reduce carbohydrates from your diet you will most likely see a decrease on the scale. This is because for every 1 gram of carbohydrate you consume, 3-4 grams of water are stored. When you reduce a pasta meal containing 200 grams of carbs that cause you to retain 600-800 grams of water with a 50-gram serving size, you reduce the amount of water you retain. Over time, the weight on the scale reflects that water loss. This also applies to consuming a high-carb meal that is not a regular eating pattern for you. You may see an increase in the scale the next day, but thankfully that is just water weight too.

Not all carbohydrates are created equally. Because some carbohydrates are better for your health than others, be sure to read your food labels and choose nutrient-dense foods that support better health.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at mcorrigan@ymcasumter.org or (803) 773-1404.