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Carbohydrates are the body’s main provider of energy, glucose from carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for muscles. Carbohydrates prevent the body from feeding on protein for energy which the body needs to make muscles. Using protein as a source of energy in place of carbohydrates puts stress on the kidneys causing problems with urination. (‘Carbohydrates’, 2018b; Szalay, 2017)
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When people eat foods rich in carbohydrates, their bodies receive glucose and glycogen. Glucose is for immediate energy and glycogen for reserve energy. (Whitney & Rolfes, 2008, p. 101) Glucose is very important for the brain, as the brain is not able to easily use fuel sources like fat or protein for energy. (‘Carbohydrates—Good or Bad for You?’, 2015)
There are two main forms of carbohydrates simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates can be found in foods such as honey, table sugar, dairy products, fruit juice and fruit. (‘Carbohydrates—Good or Bad for You?’, 2015)
They can also be found in soda, candy and syrups. These foods are called “empty calories” they are made with refined and processed sugars and lack vitamins, minerals and fibre. Having these kinds of calories lead to weight gain and don’t benefit you in the way fruit would. (Szalay, 2017)
For your bodies cells to function properly they use glucose for energy. Simple sugars such as fructose and glucose can be absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream. When the simple sugars enter your bloodstream, insulin is used to move glucose into your cells and any extra is moved into your muscles and liver. This is where it can be stored to be used for future energy use, however, if the glucose can’t be stored it is converted into fat. (Hersh, 2017)
When you eat complex carbohydrates, your body needs to break down the complex chains before it can be used for energy. Enzymes begin the process of breaking down the carbohydrates into glucose once the food gets into your small intestine. When the glucose enters your bloodstream, it’s treated the same as glucose from simple carbohydrates. But the process of breaking down the complex carbohydrates causes them to give you energy at a slower rate. (Hersh, 2017)
Simple carbohydrates are small molecules that include either a monosaccharide (single sugars) or disaccharide (double sugars) which is two monosaccharides linked together. Glucose, fructose and galactose are monosaccharides. Lactose, sucrose, and maltose are disaccharides. The body can quite easily digest simple carbohydrates. Most simple carbohydrates process in the small intestine where enzymes can break them down small enough for them to pass through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream where it can then be used as energy. (Manzella, 2019)
Simple carbohydrates are great for quick short bursts of energy as they break down quickly by the body. However, any unused sugar is converted to fat and stored which contributes to weight gain. (‘Carbohydrates’, 2018a; Manzella, 2019)
Examples of Simple Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as
- Dairy products
Simple carbohydrates are also found in foods with refined or processed sugar which lack vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Foods such as
Complex carbohydrates are known as polysaccharides and oligosaccharides. They made up of complex chains of sugar molecules, digestion of complex carbohydrates takes longer than simple carbohydrates. This is because when you eat complex carbohydrates your body needs to break down the complex chains before it can be used for energy. Some complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, these foods contain vitamins, minerals and fibres. (Hersh, 2017; Manzella, 2019)
Complex carbohydrates cause blood sugar to rise slower than simple carbohydrates due to it having less of an immediate impact. This is because complex carbohydrates digest slower than simple carbohydrates. Therefor complex carbohydrates are good for staying fuller and having the energy for longer periods of time. They are not a good source for quick boosts of energy. (Manzella, 2019)
Examples of complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as
- Whole grains
- Starchy vegetables
- Non-starchy vegetables
There are two types of carbohydrates simple and complex carbohydrates both give you energy in different ways. Simple carbohydrates give you a quick burst of energy and complex carbohydrates release glucose into your body slowly over time giving you less energy but gives you energy over time. (Manzella, 2019)
Refined carbohydrates are also known as processed or simple carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are stripped of almost all vitamins, minerals and fibre. There are refined and processed sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup and sucrose (table sugar). There are also refined grains such as grains that have had nutritious and fibrous parts removed. One of the biggest sources of refined grains made from refined wheat is white flour. Refined carbohydrates digest quickly which leads to spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after eating. (Bjarnadottir, 2017)
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Unrefined carbohydrates are incorrectly referred to as “complex carbohydrates” unrefined carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are not stripped from fibre through processing. Some of the foods that are unrefined carbohydrates are whole vegetables, legumes, fruit, legumes and whole cereals. (Malczewski, 2016)
Protein can cause you to feel fuller, it is partially due to your level of ghrelin (hunger hormone) being reduced and increasing the levels of peptide YY (a hormone that makes you feel full) when you consume protein. It can help with weight loss and help control your hunger. Consuming protein during weight loss can also help prevent muscle loss. This is because muscle is mainly made of protein. (Gunnars, 2019)
Protein is made up of amino acids which our bodies can’t store, the excess will be used for energy and broken down. This excess protein can cause damage to people with kidney disease. The excess nitrogen in the amino acids cause the kidneys that are damaged to work harder. This is the kidneys getting rid of the extra waste products of protein metabolism and nitrogen. (Cronkleton & Coppola, 2019; Gunnars, 2019)
After consuming protein once it reaches your stomach, the protein is broken down into smaller chains of amino acids by hydrochloric acid and enzymes called proteases. The proteases break the amino acids joined together by peptides. The smaller chains of amino acids move into your small intestine from your stomach. While this is happening enzymes and a bicarbonate buffer that lowers the acidity of digested foods is released by your pancreas. The lowered acidity allows more enzymes to further work on breaking the amino acid chains down into individual amino acids. (Dix, 2018)
The smaller chains of amino acids that are in your small intestine is where protein is absorbed, they contain microvilli. These are small structures that are finger-like and increase the surface area of your small intestine that can absorb to allow for better absorption of amino acids and other nutrients. When they are absorbed, the amino acids are released into your bloodstream where they can go to cells within your body to start repairing tissue and building muscle. (Dix, 2018)
Amino acids are organic compounds that are made up of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon, along with a variable side chain group. They are often referred to as being the building blocks of proteins and also play many critical roles in your body. Amino acids are required for processes that are vital like the building of proteins and synthesis of neurotransmitters and hormones.
For your body to grow and function it requires 20 different amino acids, only nine of these amino acids are essential. The other amino acids are not considered to be essential, some of which are considered to be nonessential that only under certain circumstances such as stress or illness are they considered as essential. These are conditionally essential amino acids. (Kubala, 2018)
The 9 essential amino acids are:
- Histidine produces histamine which is a neurotransmitter vital to digestion, immune response, sleep-wake cycles and sexual function.
- Isoleucine is a branced-chain amino acid that is involved in muscle metabolism and it is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. It is important for energy regulation, immune function and hemoglobin production.
- Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that helps stimulate wound healing, produce growth hormones and regulate blood sugar levels. It is also essential for muscle repair and protein synthesis.
- Lysine plays a big part in enzyme and hormone production, absorption of calcium and protein synthesis.
“the body can’t produce” (‘The Chemistry of Amino Acids’, 2003)
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