Index Nutrition People
|First Posted Dec 21, 2008|
Jul 30, 2010
Carbohydrates and Nutrition
New York Times, Sunday, December 21, 2008, Carbohydrates and Nutrition
Carbohydrates are one of the main dietary components. This category of foods includes sugars, starches, and fiber. The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Your liver breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is used for energy by the body. Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex. The classification depends on the chemical structure of the food, and how quickly the sugar is digested and absorbed. Simple carbohydrates have one (single) or two (double) sugars. Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars.
Examples of single sugars from foods include:
Double sugars include:
Complex carbohydrates, often referred to as "starchy" foods, include:
Simple carbohydrates that contain vitamins and minerals occur naturally in:
Also, many refined foods, such as white flour, sugar, and polished rice, lack B vitamins and other important nutrients unless they are marked "enriched." It is healthiest to get carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutrients in as natural a form as possible -- for example, from fruit instead of table sugar.
Getting too many carbohydrates can lead to an increase in total calories, causing obesity. Not getting enough carbohydrates can cause a lack of calories (malnutrition), or excessive intake of fats to make up the calories. Most people should get between 40% and 60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates (starches) and natural sugars. Complex carbohydrates provide calories, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Foods that are high in processed, refined simple sugars provide calories, but very little nutrition. It is wise to limit these sugars.
To increase complex carbohydrates and healthy nutrients:
Here are recommended serving sizes for foods high in carbohydrates:
Vegetables: 1 cup of raw vegetables, or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
Here is a sample 2,000 calorie menu, of which 50% - 60% of the total calories are from carbohydrates.
Smoked turkey sandwich
Grilled top loin steak
1 cup low-fat fruited yogurt
Farrell JJ. Digestion and Absorption of Nutrients and Vitamins. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2006:chap 97.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Rockville, MD: US Dept. of Health and Human Services
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