You have probably heard the words “carbohydrates” and “complex carbohydrates” but do you know what they are? Or how important they are to your body and your health?
Carbohydrates provide your body with its basic fuel. Your body thinks about carbohydrates like a car engine thinks about gasoline. The simplest carbohydrate is glucose. Glucose, also called “blood sugar” and “dextrose,” flows in the bloodstream so that it is available to every cell in your body. Your cells absorb glucose and convert it into energy to drive the cell.
Specifically, a set of chemical reactions on glucose creates ATP (adenosine triphosphate), and a phosphate bond in ATP powers
most of the machinery in any human cell. If you drink a solution of water and glucose, the glucose passes directly from your digestive system into the bloodstream.
The word “carbohydrate” comes from the fact that glucose is made up of carbon and water. The chemical formula for glucose is:
Glucose is made of six carbon atoms (carbo…) and the elements of six water molecules (…hydrate). Glucose is a simple sugar, meaning that to our tongues it tastes sweet. There are other simple sugars that you have probably heard of. Fructose is the main sugar in fruits. Fructose has the same chemical formula as glucose (C6H12O6), but the atoms are arranged in a slightly different manner. The liver converts fructose to glucose. Sucrose, also known as “white sugar” or “table sugar,” is made of one glucose and one fructose molecule bonded together. Lactose (the sugar found in milk) is made of one glucose and one galactose molecule bonded together. Galactose, like fructose, has the same chemical components as glucose but the atoms are also arranged differently. The liver also converts galactose to glucose. Maltose, the sugar found in malt, is made from two glucose atoms bonded together.
Glucose, fructose and galactose are monosaccharides and are the only carbohydrates that can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining. Lactose, sucrose and maltose are disaccharides (they contain two monosaccharides) and are easily converted to their monosaccharide bases by enzymes in the digestive tract. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are called simple carbohydrates. They are all sugars — they all taste sweet. They all digest quickly and enter the bloodstream quickly.
When you look at a “Nutrition Facts” label on a food package and see “Sugars” under the “Carbohydrates” section of the label, these simple sugars are what the label is talking about.
There are also complex carbohydrates, commonly known as “starches.” A complex carbohydrate is made up of chains of glucose molecules. Starches are the way plants store energy — plants produce glucose and chain the glucose molecules together to form starch. Most grains (wheat, corn, oats, rice) and things like potatoes and plantains are high in starch. Your digestive system breaks a complex carbohydrate (starch) back down into its component glucose molecules so that the glucose can enter your
bloodstream. It takes a lot longer to break down a starch, however. If you drink a can of soda full of sugar, glucose will enter the bloodstream at a rate of something like 30 calories per minute. A complex carbohydrate is digested more slowly, so glucose enters the bloodstream at a rate of only 2 calories per minute.
Since carbohydrates feed your cells (your entire body) you need to consider their intake as part of a balanced diet. The type of carbohydrates you choose should be based on your immediate, or long term, needs based on the taskes you will be doing and the performance you expect from your body.
Your friend in health,
Adam aka Guru
(60 Day Challenge – Day 59)