In any nutritional talk, carbohydrates are the most debatable form of energy. But, there is no dispute when it comes to the functions of carbohydrates in the human body.
Carbohydrates are a combination of carbon with hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a precise ratio. But in nutrition, you can have an unending discussion about their role.
There are many thoughts of schools as far as carbohydrates are talked about nutrition. Many thinkers believe that we consume only a few carbs to maintain good health, whereas others advocate for a high-carb diet. Some others also think that carbs should be consumed moderately.
Whichever school of thought you follow, the bottom line is that carbohydrates are very important for the well-being of the human body. Here are some of the important functions of Carbohydrates in the Human Body.
1. Good for Heart and Diabetes
Consuming more refined carbs is dangerous for the body as it increases the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. On the other hand dietary fibers are good for our heart health and regulate blood sugar levels.
When the bulky soluble fiber moves in the intestine, it sticks to the bile acid so that it is not reabsorbed. In this condition, the liver uses the cholesterol in the blood to produce more bile acid.
Thus the blood cholesterol is used by the liver due to the soluble fiber. Studies have shown that LDL cholesterol can go by 7% if we consume 10.2g of psyllium which is a form of soluble fiber.
Another study on the benefit of soluble fiber concluded that the risk of heart disease is lowered by 9% just by consuming 7g more dietary fiber per day. All other forms of carbohydrates, except fibers, can increase blood sugar levels. But soluble fiber can help to lower the level of blood sugar after meals, by delaying carb absorption during the digestive process. Studies have shown a substantial reduction in fasting blood sugar levels in people consuming soluble fiber supplements.
With the daily consumption of soluble fiber supplements, one can see the that level of A1c molecules has lowered significantly. A1c level is an indicator of average blood sugar level over the past 3 months. Fiber consumption is not only good for people having prediabetes, but it works even better for people having type 2 diabetes.
2. Provide Energy to the body
Carbohydrates are one of the principal sources of energy for our body. When we eat food, it gets digested and carbohydrates present in them are broken down into glucose before it enters the blood.
Blood then carries this glucose to various cells in the body which produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP, the energy-producing molecules are produced with the help of a complex process of cellular respiration. These molecules are used by cells to perform various metabolic functions.
Cells that produce ATP use dietary carbohydrates and fats as their primary source. When a diet is a mix of carbs and fats, most body cells will prefer carbohydrates to produce energy.
3. Helpful in Digestive health
When we eat food, the fiber present does not get broken into glucose. This fiber remains undigested during the whole digestion process. Fibers can be classified into two main types, soluble and insoluble.
When soluble fiber during the digestion process absorbs the water in the stomach and gets converted into a gel-like substance. Oats, legumes, and inner parts of fruits are chief sources of soluble fibers. Soluble fiber helps in softening stool and bowel movements.
Studies have shown that soluble fiber helps to improve the consistency of stools and frequency of bowel movements thus easing constipation. This also helps to reduce the strain and pain while passing the stools.
Insoluble fibers also help to relieve constipation as they also add bulk to our stool and making the bowel movement quicker. Whole grains and fruits and vegetable seeds are the main sources of insoluble fibers. Sufficient insoluble fiber intake also reduces the risk of any diseases of the digestive tract.
A study done on 40,000 men concluded that the people with more intake of insoluble fiber have a 37% lesser risk of diverticular disease.
4. Carbs help to protect Muscles
Glycogen is extra storage for the body when it ensures that glucose present in it adequate for its functioning. When the body consumes the glucose in your bloodstream the body then uses muscles. Glucose is generated by breaking down amino acids available in the muscles.
However, this is not an ideal condition as the body will not be able to move without muscle cells. When you are in a bad health, your body uses your muscles. This might lead to high death risk and further deterioration of health.
But this happens in conditions like prolonged starvation, as it is an emergency process of the body to provide energy to the brain. To prevent the loss of muscle mass due to starvation, one must consume some carb. This will prevent the body from using the muscle mass for energy for the brain.
For a healthy lifestyle you require strong muscles.
5. Help to provide stored Energy
When the body has an adequate amount of glucose for the current requirement, it stores the excess to use later. This excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles and is called glycogen.
Approximately 100g of glycogen can be stored by a healthy liver which is released into the bloodstream during the day. This gives the body the required energy and also maintains the sugar level to normal.
Glycogen that is stored in muscles is used only by muscle cells. When you do any high-intensity exercise, the muscles cell use this stored glycogen. Usually, the muscle glycogen is about 500g, but it may vary in people. When the body has all the required glucose and glycogen, that condition the excess carbs are converted into triglyceride molecules. Molecules are then stored as fat.
Thus we understand that carbohydrates perform some very important functions in our body. They are used by the body to generate energy for daily work and also the main source of energy for the brain. Fibers which is a form of carbohydrates are helpful for our digestion and reduce the risk of heart problems and diabetes.
Generally, the body uses these carbohydrates to perform its routine functions, but in conditions of a low-carb diet, our body turns to other arrangements to generate energy and power the brain. So it very important that we consume carbohydrates in our daily diet which will help our body to function properly.
Part of the Diet for Weight Loss Editorial Team 2021