When I was doing my Master's in Food , Nutrition and Dietetics , the internet was there but smartphones were not. Food was considered as food at that time. With the advancement of technology , synthetic foods are there and along with it the wrong concerns about food has increased. Earlier fad diets like GM diets , Liquid protein diet , Atkins diet , etc were there but the common people were unaware of it .Now almost everyone has a smartphone and every body is attached to social media and everyone is a diet guru.
A few years ago, I met a boy about 20 , he was unemployed. He didn't have money for food. He got a job in a small fitness centre. His work was to clean the centre and it's machine. The other staff helped him financially. When he got his first salary, he was so influenced by the gym trainers that he spent his salary on a big jar of protein powder. In developing countries like ours , people like this boy know about carbs and proteins. Amazing.
But does everybody know what carbohydrates are and its importance?
Carbohydrates as the name suggests contain carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. The carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are formed into units known as saccharide groups. Carbohydrates are classified according to the saccharide groups and it is further classified into the number of saccharide groups present.
First being the Monosaccharides containing only one saccharide group. It's the simplest one. The simple sugar but the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen present in it combines differently to form different simple sugars. They are
D-Glucose (Dextrose or grape sugar). It does not require digestion and can to a limited extent be absorbed by the stomach.
- Fructose (Levulose or fruit sugar). Present in honey , fruits and vegetables. It is an important commercial sweetner used particularly in soft drinks.
- Galactose Lactose breaks down into glucose and galactose.
- Sorbitol -occurs naturally in red seaweed, pears , apples , prunes and peaches. It does not raise blood sugar. It is used as a sweetener for diabetics. It also acts as a laxative .
- Mannitol -found in seaweed, pumpkin, mushroom and onions. It is very slowly absorbed from the digestive tract. It has a purgative effect. It is used to increase the urine output in patients with swelling due to fluid of the brain.
- Mannose -found in some food such as manna plants.
- Pentoses -nutritionally they are not important.
- Xylitol -present in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables. It is used in chewing gums. It decreases food intake and delays emptying of the stomach. It stimulates intestinal motility and may produce diarrhoea.
Disaccharides containing two saccharides are found in
- Sucrose - (Table sugar or cane sugar or household sugar or beetroot sugar), everyone's favourite. Inexpensive source of energy. High sucrose intake damages the liver and increases ALT /SGPT or AST /SGOT enzymes. High intake also leads to dental decay.
- Maltose - is formed during the breakdown of starch in the process of malting barley. It is also an intermediate product formed in the process of conversion of starch into glucose.
- Lactose - (milk sugar) sugar of human and animal milk. Easily digestible. Excess of lactose produces diarrhoea.
- Trehalose - found only in mushrooms and insects. Nutritionally not important.
Polysaccharides composed of many molecules of monosaccharides linked together.
- Starch - is the storage form of carbohydrates in the vegetable kingdom, the counterpart of glycogen in the animal kingdom. Starch is found not only in rice but in all the cereals. So it's a myth that a person is overweight by eating rice . If consumed properly rice doesn't harm the body. Starch is also found in pulses. It is found in potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, tapioca , sago , greater yams , lesser yams , and arrowroot. So the people who shout for "no carb diet" have to leave most of the foods found in this world .
- Glycogen - stored mainly in the liver and muscles. It is stored as glycogen or a reserve form of carbohydrates fuel for animals. In a normal person, any amount utilized is replenished immediately.
- Cellulose - forms the cell walls of vegetables, fruit and cereals. It is accomplished by cooking or by mastication, which mechanically breaks down the cellulose. Constipated person can be helped by cellulose which provides an unabsorbable bulk, distends the intestine and stimulates peristalsis.
- Isaphgul is cellulose which can absorb over 25 times its weight of water.
- Agar agar obtained from seaweed has properties similar to Isaphgul.
Liquid glucose complex carbohydrate predigested by hydrolysis of starch into tri, tetra -penta or higher saccharides are desired. It is widely used for the preparation of various foods.
Carbohydrates are really very important for our life. The main work of carbohydrate is to
- It supplies energy for the immediate use of the body.
- Glycogen protects the liver against bacterial toxins and poisonous substances.
- The brain use glucose for energy at a rate of about 5g/hr.
- The efficiency of the heart as a pump depends upon the availability of carbohydrate as fuel.
- Carbohydrate is the most efficient and economical fuel for muscles, energy is derived from glycogen in the muscles.
- When carbohydrates and fats are supplied to meet the demand for energy, proteins are spared for growth and repair. When carbohydrates are insufficient to meet the requirements amino acids are deaminated for glucose formation and nitrogen is converted into urea by the liver and excreted by the kidneys.
- When carbohydrates are not readily available as in starvation or cannot be utilised , fats are broken down in greater quantities for energy and an increased amount of ketone bodies are produced. These may accumulate in the blood as ketonemia or excreted in the urine as ketonuria . Therefore keto diet should be followed under the supervision of qualified dietician.
What happens when you stop eating to achieve zero figure or to become like supermodels ?
You have low blood sugar. Happens after 3-4 hours after breakfast or lunch. It gives rise to a feeling of weakness, palpitations, sweating, tremulousness , hunger and nausea. These symptoms may disappear in a short time as a result of conversion of liver glycogen into glucose. The symptoms are distressing but no physical signs are noted by the physician, you are diagnosed as 'neurotic '. Amazing isn't it?
Migraine attacks may be precipitated by low blood sugar.
What happens when body like to workout with dumbbells and want to make macho figures but... avoid carbohydrates ?
You will feel fatigued ,irritable. So what's the use of this type of show off when you are not feeling well from inside. To avoid muscle cramps during intense workouts, good carbohydrates are required by the body. Proteins should be spared for the growth of the muscles and carbohydrates should be included for energy utilisation.
"So avoid all the myths and fads , eat a well balanced diet and be healthy and fit forever."