Other ways your body uses carbohydrates

Providing energy is an important job, but it isn't the only thing carbohydrates do for you. Carbohydrates also protect your muscles. When you need energy, your body looks for glucose from carbohydrates first. If none is available, because you're on a carbohydrate-restricted diet or have a medical condition that prevents you from using the carbohydrate foods you consume, your body begins to pull energy out of fatty tissue and then moves on to burning its own protein tissue (muscles). If this use of proteins for energy continues long enough, you run out of fuel and die.

A diet that provides sufficient amounts of carbohydrates keeps your body from eating its own muscles. That's why a carbohydrate-rich diet is sometimes described as protein sparing.

What else do carbohydrates do? They i Regulate the amount of sugar circulating in your blood so that all your cells get the energy they need i Provide nutrients for the friendly bacteria in your intestinal tract that help digest food i Assist in your body's absorption of calcium i May help lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure (these effects are special benefits of dietary fiber, which I discuss in the "Dietary Fiber: The Non-Nutrient in Carbohydrate Foods" section, later in this chapter)

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