The role of carbohydrates in the diet

Carbohydrates are one of the three nutrients that our body needs. Two other macronutrients are  proteins ,  fats. The term “carbohydrates” comes from “carbon + water.” Indeed, the general formula for any of these organic compounds is as follows: C n (H 2 O) m .

The main function of carbohydrates in the diet, along with fats, is providing the body with energy. The total daily body need for carbohydrates is about 400 g (55-65% of food). At the same time, every gram of carbohydrates gives about 4 kcal of energy.

Balanced nutrition implies the following Ratios – 400 g of carbohydrates daily must be fed with food up to 100 g of fat and 100 g of proteins (4: 1: 1).

In everyday life, we often meet with carbohydrates. First, they are found in bread, flour, cereals, potatoes, fruits and berries. Secondly, carbohydrates are used in cooking and in pure form: starch is used to make jelly, and sugar is used for sweet dishes.

Carbohydrates are divided into two groups:

  • simple sugars consisting of one or two monomers. These include glucose (grape sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), galactose (milk sugar), sucrose (cane or beet sugar), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (beer). Before they enter the intestine, they do not undergo major digestive changes;
  • complex sugars consisting of several monomers. They are related to starch and require more complex processing in the digestive tract. They are present in cereals (wheat, corn, rice, rye, oats, barley), tuberous (potatoes), root crops (carrots, rutabaga), legumes (peas, chickpeas, dry beans, lentils, soybeans).

Hyperglycemia and Hyperinsulinism

All carbohydrates, entering the body, are transformed into glucose, which is subsequently carried through the blood throughout the body. In the morning on an empty stomach the normal blood glucose is 3.3-5.5 mmol / l. Approximately 20 minutes after the consumption of carbohydrates, an increase in the glucose content to a maximum, called the “glycemic peak”, occurs. The pancreas begins to produce the hormone insulin, through which glucose is supplied to muscle tissue or deposited as a reserve in the liver (glycogen).

If the pancreas is working normally, then the amount of insulin released is proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood. However, with age, these proportions may be violated. As a result, there can be two problems associated with poor glucose uptake: hyperglycemia (increase in blood glucose) and hyperinsulinism (excessive insulin production).

Depending on the form of hyperglycemia, the glucose level can be up to 9 mmol / l on an empty stomach. It is more common after seventy years. Hypoglycemia per se does not pose a serious health hazard. However, the hyperinsulinism caused by it is dangerous because it causes reactive hypoglycemia and, as a result, malaise, fatigue, weight gain.

It should also be remembered that during the high-temperature processing of food, the proteins and carbohydrates contained in it, enter into a chemical reaction between themselves, called the “Mayard reaction.” As a result of this reaction, products are formed that slow down the process of cell renewal of tissues, arteries, eye lens and accelerate the aging process of the body. Moreover, the reaction of Mayard takes place in our body. Under normal conditions, the rate of this reaction is so small that the reaction products have time to be removed, and with a sharp increase in blood sugar in diabetes, the reaction rate increases significantly and the accumulated reaction products can cause the above-mentioned violations. That is why it is important to keep under control hypoglycemia.

In cooking, the products of the Mayard reaction are visually “appetizing” crisps on various fried and baked products: the crust on freshly baked bread, the crust on the goose cooked in the oven, etc. Moreover, these crisps are especially quickly formed in dry air. At a certain humidity, they are not formed. For example, when cooking meat in foil or microwave, it is not formed due to humidity.

Milk sugar intolerance (lactose)

It is no secret that a certain part of people has intolerance to milk sugar contained in milk and dairy products. This is due to the fact that the milk sugar in the body is split into glucose and galactose with the help of the enzyme lactase. And in this form already absorbed by the body.

However, lactase deficiency increases with age, leading to lactose intolerance. The consequence of this may be loose stools (diarrhea) or bloating, which occur some time after drinking milk. We should not forget that poorly digested lactose accumulated in the body can cause cataracts of the eyes! Therefore, if you feel lactose intolerance, then eliminate from your diet milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese, any milk-based dishes.

Of course, to neutralize the action of lactose, you can take lactase tablets or add this enzyme to the dairy product several hours before it is consumed. However, it is better to prefer those dairy products in which lactose is practically destroyed by the action of enzymes. These are cheeses and yogurts.

Caution: sugar!

The nutritional value of regular sugar is zero. Therefore, it is better to give preference to fruits that have not only energy value, but also contain vitamins and mineral salts.

What is the glycemic index (GI) and how to take it into account when choosing food?

This index can be used to judge the effect of food after consumption on blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index of a food product, the faster it breaks down in the body and the faster the blood sugar level rises.

As a reference point, glucose is accepted, in which GI = 100. Data on the glycemic index of carbohydrates are tabulated. GI product depends on the type of carbohydrates, the amount of fiber, protein and fat contained in the product, as well as the method of its heat treatment. Unfortunately, the glycemic index of the product is not indicated on the packages of domestic products.

Naturally, for most people, products with a low glycemic index are preferable, since they consume a gradual rise and fall in blood sugar. This is especially important for diabetics. This effect is also useful for healthy people who want to lose weight.

The advantages of low GI products are that they:

  • do not lead to significant hyperinsulinism;
  • cause less hyperglycemia;
  • limit the occurrence of harmful substances as a result of the Mayard reaction;
  • contain more vegetable proteins and fiber;
  • contain vitamins, mineral salts and trace elements.

 Glycemic index table of food

Name of foodIndex
High Glycemic Carbohydrates
Beer110
Maltose (malt sugar)110
Hamburger103
Dates103
Glucose100
White bread toast100
Swede99
Parsnip97
Chips or Potato Casserole95
Rice flour95
Mashed potatoes90
Honey90
Boiled carrots85
Corn Flakes, Popcorn85
Popcorn85
Instant rice85
Beans80
Pumpkin75
Watermelon75
Sugar (sucrose)70
White bread (loaf)70
Chocolate bars70
Boiled potatoes70
Biscuit70
Corn70
Ice cream sundae in chocolate70
Dried fruits65
Baked (Gray) Bread65
Boiled potatoes in a uniform65
Beet65
Bananas, melons, jam60
White flour pasta55
Low Glycemic Carbohydrates
Whole Grain Cereal Sugar Free50
Green pea50
Whole grain (or bran) bread50
Asian White Sticky Rice45
Rye bread40
Whole Grain Pasta40
Fresh fruit juice without sugar40
Red beans40
Cereals40
Ice cream35
Milk products35
Dry pea35
Wholemeal Bread35
Sugar free fruit marmaladethirty
Fresh fruitsthirty
Wholemeal Pastathirty
Turkish city (chickpea)thirty
Lentilsthirty
Dry beansthirty
Raw carrotthirty
Dark black chocolate22
Peanut15
Walnuts15
Soy15
Tomato juice15
Green vegetables, mushroomsLess than 15
Eggplantten
Broccoliten
Mushroomsten
Green pepperten
Cabbageten
Bowten
Tomatoesten
Sheet Saladten
Lettuceten
Garlicten
Sunflower seedseight
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