Carbohydrates: why do we need them?


Carbohydrates are one of the most important energy sources for the body. For what specific processes are responsible and why complex carbohydrates are healthier than simple ones?

Carbohydrates (also called saccharides) are organic compounds of plant origin. They consist of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. We distinguish simple and complex carbohydrates, as well as digestible and non-absorbable carbohydrates. What are the types of carbohydrates and which products are the most valuable saccharides?

Simple and complex carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates (which are also referred to as monosaccharides, monosugars or simple sugars) do not break down in the intestines into simpler molecules. These include: ribose, arabinose, galactose, glucose, fructose and mannose. Complex carbohydrates, however, break down into monosaccharides. Complex carbohydrates are disaccharides that have 2 molecules of monosaccharides and are contained in sucrose (i.e. sugar), lactose, maltose and trehalose; oligosaccharides, composed of 3-10 molecules of monosaccharides, and included in maltodextrin, raffinose and fructooligosaccharides; as well as polysaccharides, composed of many monosaccharide molecules (for example, starch, inulin, cellulose, pectin or glycogen can be mentioned here).

What functions do carbohydrates play?

Carbohydrates are the basic source of energy that feeds the entire body. They support the work of the brain, muscles and heart, enable the flow of genetic information, regulate metabolic processes. They are an important building block of cell structures, they are responsible for the feeling of hunger and satiety, they are involved in fat burning processes. In addition, they affect the work of the immune system, facilitate bowel movements and store energy in the form of glycogen in cells.

Products rich in carbohydrates

The most carbohydrates contain cereal and milk products, vegetables, fruits, sweetened beverages, legumes, honey, sugar and sweets. In some products, carbohydrates occur naturally, in others they are the result of a production process (we refer to highly processed foods). Nutritionists recommend limiting the consumption of sugars (mono- and disaccharides), namely: sweets, fruit juices from the store, sweetened drinks and white bread and pasta. We have already written about the unfavorable influence of these over here:

The daily dose of carbohydrates

It is recommended to consume at least 130 grams of carbohydrate carbohydrates (that is, those from which the body draws its energy during digestion). Unsupportable saccharides do not break down easily in the intestines, so it is best to completely exclude from the diet products in which they constitute the main ingredient.