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Functions of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates act just like the fuel in our cars. When we take in carbohydrates, we are taking in fuel for our bodies to use for metabolism of our cells. Although the functions of carbohydrates are similar to the fuel in our cars, the process is much more complex than that. We take in carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains so as to give our cells the glucose it needs to run metabolic functions.

6 Essential Functions of Carbohydrates

Our bodies could not function without carbohydrates. Our brain especially relies solely on carbohydrates for its metabolic properties. Essential functions that make carbohydrates important are as follows:

1.   Provide Us with Energy

The main thing carbohydrates give us is the energy for metabolism. This is why dieticians recommend that more than half of our calories should be supplied in the form of carbs. Some carbs are used immediately for cellular processes, while excess carbs are stored in the form of glycogen, which is present in the liver. Some carbs turn into fat and are stored in our fat cells.

2.   Use Protein in Other Beneficial Ways

Without the functions of carbohydrates, our body would have to use protein for fuel. Protein, however, is necessary for other cellular processes and when it is wasted as fuel, we have less protein for the repair of tissues and for the production of enzymes. Carbs allow our body to use protein for what its primary purpose is and not just for fuel.

3.   Are Necessary for Fat Oxidation

The body needs carbs in order to burn fat. A breakdown product of carbohydrates is called oxaloacetic acid, which is necessary to metabolize fats. Without this breakdown product, fats get turned into ketones, which can be toxic to the bodies. This is why we need carbs in order to allow fats to be metabolized correctly by the body.

4.   Help Gastro-Intestinal (GI) Function in the Body

Carbohydrates play a role in the production of B complex vitamins made by beneficial bacteria in the body. The beneficial bacteria live off the carbohydrates consumed by the GI tract and can then help us in return by producing valuable vitamins we need to function. One of the functions of carbohydrates is to provide fuel for these beneficial bacteria so that they can symbiotically help us in return. Carbohydrates, such as lactate, help the body absorb calcium better, which is good for our bones.

5.   Make Our Food More Flavorful

Carbohydrates provide us with more flavors in the diet. Carbohydrates come in more varieties than just about any other food. They are easily digested by the GI tract, especially when cooked, and give us the staple food our bodies need to function.

6.   Help Cellular Recognition Processes

This means that carbohydrates are important to our immune system. Many antibodies and proteins used in the immune system contain both carbs and protein. Without carbs, these combination protein/carbohydrate molecules cannot form. The carbohydrate component helps the liver know when to degrade the antibody by being cleaved off the proteins making up the immunoglobulin.  

Include Carbohydrates in Your Diet Wisely

There are two major types of carbohydrates you can eat and while the functions of carbohydrates are the same for both types, they have different effects on the body metabolism.

Simple Sugars

We eat simple carbohydrates whenever we eat food that contains refined carbs, such as sugar, refined foods like cakes, cookies, white breads and some fruits. Simple sugars get into the system very quickly and tend to raise insulin levels. This increase in insulin levels and rise in blood sugar can contribute to diabetes. The best way to consume simple sugars is to get them through things like fruits and dairy products. Fruits, especially, contain simple carbs but also are high in fiber, nutrients and vitamins. There is nothing wrong with eating simple sugars that also contain healthy substances along with it. Eating candy, on the other hand, does not provide you with anything in the way of healthy nutrients and can lead to diabetes.

Complex Sugars

These are also known as starches. Starches are a type of complex carbohydrate found best in whole grain items, including whole grain bread, whole grain pasta and whole grain rice. These contain a lot of fiber that allows for slow absorption of the carbohydrate into the GI tract and they are more filling than simple sugars. These are usually good for your health, but remember not to choose refined ones.

You can get more tips of eating carb from the video below to get benefical functions of carbohydrate:

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