Updated on February 28th, 2017
Carbohydrates (from ‘hydrates of carbon’) or saccharides (Greek σάκχαρον meaning “sugar”) are organic compounds whose functions in living things are diverse, such as the storage and transport of energy (starch, glycogen). They also act as structural components (cellulose in plants, chitin in animals). Additionally, carbohydrates and their derivatives play major roles in the working process of the immune system, fertilization, , blood clotting, development and others. In human body, we could say that it is the principal and cleaner source of energy. When it is burnt inside us, the only sub products are carbon dioxide, that is released through the lungs, and water. If we are short of carbohydrates and are compelled to burn fat or proteins, the internal “contamination” is bigger. Nevertheless, a healthy body can get rid of the “garbage” without any problem. But this should not be the ideal situation.
There are three types of carbohydrates:
Monosaccharides, the simplest carbohydrates. they cannot be hydrolyzed to smaller carbohydrates. The most important one is the glucose. The living cell uses it as a source of energy and metabolic intermediate. Others are fructose (also levulose or laevulose), found in many foods and one of the three most important blood sugars along with glucose and galactose.
Disaccharides They are composed of by two joined monosaccharides. Examples are sucrose (normal sugar) and lactose (found in milk). Sucrose is the most abundant disaccharide and the main form in which carbohydrates are transported in plants. It is composed of one glucose molecule and other of fructose.
Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are composed of longer chains of monosaccharide units bound together. The distinction between the two is based upon the number of monosaccharide units present in the chain. Oligosaccharides typically contain between three and nine monosaccharide units, and polysaccharides contain greater than ten. The most well known polysaccharide is starch. It is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants. In animals, the structurally similar glycogen is used instead. Glycogen’s properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of locomotive animals.
One type of polysaccharides is fiber. Dietary fibers are the indigestible portion of plant foods that move food through the digestive system, absorbing water and making defecation easier. Dietary fiber consists of non-starch polysaccharides such as cellulose and many other plant components such as dextrins, inulin, lignin, waxes, chitins, pectins, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides Sources of dietary fiber are usually divided according to whether they are water-soluble or not. Both types of fiber are present in all plant foods, with varying degrees of each according to a plant’s characteristics. Insoluble fiber possesses passive water-attracting properties that help to increase bulk, soften stool and shorten transit time through the intestinal tract. Soluble fiber undergoes metabolic processing via fermentation, yielding end-products with broad, significant health effects. For example, plums (or prunes) have a thick skin covering a juicy pulp. The plum’s skin is an example of an insoluble fiber source, whereas soluble fiber sources are inside the pulp. Other sources of insoluble fiber include chickpeas, whole wheat, wheat and corn bran, flax seed lignans and vegetables such as celery, green beans and potato skins.
The soluble fiber of the chickpea has a very important property. Captures and drags out of our body the bile, compound highly by cholesterol, not allowing the intestine to reabsorb it.
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