Simple carbohydrates are made up of single sugars (called monosaccharides) or two sugars joined together (called disaccharides). These sugars are quickly broken down in the mouth and stomach and are absorbed into the blood stream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This rapid rise causes the body to produce a sharp rise in insulin levels and results in the sugars being converted into fat – something we want to avoid.
Complex or starchy carbohydrates are molecules that are made up of many sugars joined together. Starchy carbohydrates are an important source of energy. Because the molecules are made up of many sugars, it takes longer for the molecules to be broken down in the stomach. This means that the sugars are released more slowly into the blood stream, avoiding unwanted peaks in blood sugar levels.
The body turns almost all carbohydrates into glucose, the primary fuel of the body and the dominant sugar in the blood.
Simple carbohydrates are sugars. It doesn’t matter if they come from fruit, vegetables or honey; they all have about the same nutritional and caloric value. These are sometimes called empty calories because (with the exception of black strap molasses) they have little nutritional value. Dietary sugars are broken down into their simplest form, glucose and fructose, and are absorbed into the cells for energy.
Starches provide energy in abundance and are vital for a healthy diet. A diet in starch can also be considered a weight loss diet. People think that starches are fattening, but they are in fact helper foods to losing wait. Starches, however, can be fattening if you eat too much, like any food that contains calories. Up to a third of all starch calories are not digested and instead pass through you unabsorbed.
Like starches, simple carbohydrates provide energy. They give you quick surges rather than long-term boosts. The best sources are fruits. Nonfat milk is also a simple carbohydrate. There is another kind of energy booster that is harmful to your diet. They are made artificially and add nothing to your diet. They derive from plant sources, from which they are extracted. They give useless calories and it’s strongly urged to stay away from them.
Complex carbohydrates are glucose molecules usually combined with fiber, cellulose and starches. They provide more nutritional variety than simple carbohydrates and are a major source of dietary fiber, which is not found in animal products. Most of our carbohydrates come from cereals and grains, both products of the agricultural revolution. Our bodies are not genetically designed to thrive on large amounts of these fibreless complex carbohydrates. With the popularity of cereal- and grain-based “health diets,” carbohydrate metabolism has been upset in approximately 3/4 of the population which simply cannot handle this large load of carbohydrates. Increased insulin output from the pancreas, over the years, results in hyperinsulinism, insulin resistance and the resulting diseases mentioned above: hypertension, dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Fiber is technically a carbohydrate, except you don’t digest it. Fiber has a key role in helping your body fight diseases. Some benefits of fiber are that it keeps your digestive system running smoothly and eliminates waste often.
Fibre is largely a carbohydrate. The building blocks of all carbohydrates are different types of sugars and they can be classified according to how many sugar molecules are combined in the carbohydrate. Simple sugars consist of 1-2 sugar molecules such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose. Oligosaccharides consist of 3-10 glucose molecules joined together. Starch polysaccharides have more than 10 glucose molecules joined together.Non-starch polysaccharides have more than 10 sugar molecules such as xylose, arabinose, mannose. Dietary fibre includes non-starch polysaccharides, oligosaccarides, liginin (not a carbohydrate) and associated plant substances.
The value of fibre together with certain starches that are resistant to digestion in the small intestine, is now being discovered, and highly refined foods cannot meet the criteria required for healthful living. A new concept of nutrition is necessary which takes us away from modern highly refined foods and at the same time supplies primary nutrients in proper ratios. Only whole foods can supply this optimum relationship between nutrients, and will not only be of benefit to the athlete, but to every human being. Whole foods will also be of benefit to overweight individuals without being unduly restrictive in terms of the quantities of food which may be consumed.
There are two basic kinds of fiber. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water soaking up fluid in your stomach and small intestine. It also absorbs fats and cholesterol. The other kind of fiber moves through your body cleaning up substances that you have eaten that may be harmful. It also speeds up the time it takes for food to get from the entrance of your digestive track to the other. With enough fiber, you can cut that time in half.
Soluble fiber is an important factor in lowering blood cholesterol, but it has become an increasingly smaller part of the typical American diet, mostly due to the popularity of white flour, which has very little fiber. Whole-wheat flour and other whole grains are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Constipation often leads to straining to clear the bowels, a common precursor of strokes. Eating foods high in fiber may help prevent these problems and reduce cholesterol as well.
Fiber binds to bile acids, which contains cholesterol eliminated by the liver and is excreted if enough fiber is present. Not enough dietary fiber leads to a lack of bile/cholesterol binding, allowing cholesterol to be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream, where it can damage arteries.
Recommended fiber intake varies from 25 to 35 grams a day. If one eats a balanced vegetarian diet, with whole grains, legumes and vegetables, it is not usually necessary to take any kind of fiber supplements.
Effects of excess carbohydrates
Excess carbohydrates also cause generalized vascular disease. The high-carbohydrate diet, which is now so popular, causes the pancreas to produce large amounts of insulin, and if this happens for many years in a genetically predisposed person, the insulin receptors throughout the body become resistant to insulin. Because insulin’s action is to drive glucose into the cells, this results in chronic hyperglycemia, also called “high blood sugar.” A large portion of this sugar is stored as fat resulting in obesity.
Excess insulin also causes hypertension and helps initiate the sequence of events in the arterial wall, which leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Excess fats damage the immune system through irradiation by free radicals during per oxidation of fats. Excess carbohydrates upset the hormonal system, which also suppresses the immune system. Thus obesity is associated with a higher incidence of infection.