Sugars Starches and Fibers

THE CHEMISTS VIEW OF CARBOHYDRATES

THE SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES

Monosaccharides Disaccharides

THE COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES

Glycogen Starches Fibers

DIGESTION AND ABSORPTION OF CARBOHYDRATES

The Processes of Digestion and Absorption Lactose Intolerance

GLUCOSE IN THE BODY

A Preview of Carbohydrate Metabolism The Constancy of Blood Glucose

HEALTH EFFECTS AND RECOMMENDED INTAKES OF SUGARS

Health Effects of Sugars Recommended Intakes of Sugars

HEALTH EFFECTS AND RECOMMENDED INTAKES OF STARCH AND FIBERS

Health Effects of Starch and Fibers Recommended Intakes of Starch and Fibers

HIGHLIGHT: ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR

student, quietly studying a textbook, is seldom aware that within his brain cells, billions of glucose molecules are splitting each second to provide the energy that permits him to learn. Yet glucose provides nearly all of the energy the human brain uses dally. Similarly, a marathon runner, bursting across the finish line in an explosion of sweat and triumph, seldom gives thanks to the glycogen fuel her muscles have devoured to help her finish the race. Yet, together, glucose and its storage form glycogen provide about half of all the energy muscles and other body tissues use. The other half of the body's energy comes mostly from fat.

People don't eat glucose and glycogen directly; they eat foods rich in carbohydrates. Then their bodies convert the carbohydrates mostly into glucose for immediate energy and into glycogen for reserve energy.

Carbohydrates contribute so much to the bulk of most foods that many people mistakenly think of them as "fattening" and avoid them when trying to lose weight. Actually, such a strategy may be counterproductive. People can better control body weight by selecting high-carbohydrate, high-fiber foods and limiting fat-rich foods. All unrefined plant foods—grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits— provide ample carbohydrate and fiber with little or no fat. (Milk also contains carbohydrates. So do shellfish and organ meats such as liver, but only a little.)

The dietary carbohydrate family includes the simple carbohydrates (the sugars) and the complex carbohydrates (the starches and fibers). The simple carbohydrates are those that chemists describe as:

  • Monosaccharides—single sugars.
  • Disaccharides—sugars composed of pairs of monosaccharides. The complex carbohydrates are:
  • Polysaccharides—large molecules composed of chains of monosaccharides.
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