Periodic Table -> Carbohydrates


You can think of our bodies as chemical processing factories. Various forms of chemicals in the form of food nutrients are taken in, and the processing is accomplished through different kinds of bodily reactions. The next stage involves distribution of the chemicals within the body for immediate use or storing it for the future use.

Our bodies use chemicals belonging to two prime categories. These are macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are those types of substances which are required by the body in large quantities. Micronutrients are needed by the bodies in smaller amounts. The major types of macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, as well as proteins.

Carbohydrates - Defined

The most important energy source for our bodies is carbohydrates. In the language of chemistry, carbohydrates refer to organic molecules where carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are attached or bonded together in this ratio: Cx(H2O)y. Here x and y are whole numbers which vary according to the particular carbohydrate we are considering. In animals and humans, carbohydrates break down for releasing energy. This process is referred to as metabolism. Sugar glucose’s chemical metabolism is shown here: C6H12O6 + 6 O2 6 CO2 + 6 H2O + energy

Human beings get carbohydrates through consumption of foods like potatoes, breads, rice and such other food items. The plants manufacture carbohydrates by the process of photosynthesis. Plants obtain the sunlight’s energy for running the process. 6 CO2 + 6 H2O + energy (from sunlight) C6H12O6 + 6 O2

For instance, a potato consists of glucose molecules that are united in a big chain. Those types of carbohydrates that have long sugar chains are called complex carbohydrates, and the other variety is called simple sugars.

Simple Sugars

Carbohydrates are composed of sugar units called saccharides. Carbohydrates containing a single sugar unit are termed as monosaccharides, while those consisting of double sugar units are called disaccharides. Monosaccharides and disaccharides form simple sugars. Simple sugars taste sweet and are generally quickly broken down for releasing energy within the body. The common forms of monosaccharides are fructose and glucose. Glucose and fructose share the same formula: (C6H12O6); but have separate structures. Fructose is the form of sugar to be found in the majority of fruits, while glucose is the main kind of sugar found in humans for energy. Our table sugar is sucrose which is a disaccharide consisting of a glucose unit bound to a fructose unit.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are referred to as polymers of simple sugars. Simply speaking, these complex carbohydrates are a series of long chains consisting of units of simple sugar bound together. Thus complex carbohydrates are often called polysaccharides. The potato consists of the complex carbohydrate called starch. Starch is actually a polymer of the glucose (monosaccharide). It is the primary polysaccharide utilized by plants for storing glucose to be used later in the form of energy. When human beings consume starch, the enzyme amylase (found in saliva and intestines) breaks the bonding between the series of glucose units, thereby permitting absorption in the bloodstream. Thus absorbed, the body goes about distributing to regions which require the energy or stores them as glycogen.

Glycogen is a glucose polymer stored within liver or muscle tissue of human beings and animals and used as an immediate form of energy. Both glycogen and starch are glucose polymers. But starch is a relatively long and straight chain composed of glucose units, whereas, glycogen forms a branched chain.

Cellulose is another vital polysaccharide. Cellulose is different from glycogen and starch in the structure of the molecules. Here the glucose units are in the form of a two – dimensional structure. The hydrogen bonds hold together the closely located polymers, thus providing additional stability to the molecule. Cellulose is a plant fiber that is not digestible by the humans. Though cellulose is not an energy source, cellulose fiber is needed to keep the digestive tract healthy and clean.

Due to the risk of obesity and heart disease, the Institute of Medicine has specified that American and Canadian adults should get 40% to 65% of food energy from carbohydrates. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization together recommend setting a goal of 55% to 75% of energy requirements from carbohydrates, with just 10% from direct sugars. Eating low carb foods with emphasis on foods containing complex sugars, will help control blood sugar levels, promoting better health.

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