Now some types of diet or diet consider carbohydrates as nutrients that need to be avoided. Whereas many carbohydrate functions for the body are necessary for daily activities.
In addition to protein and fats, carbohydrates are also the main nutrients contained in daily meals and are needed by the body. Almost all healthy diets advise entering a combination of all three.
There are four main functions of carbohydrates that are indispensable to the body, namely:
- Major energy sources
The first function of carbohydrates is as the main source of energy for the body. That energy is needed from breathing to more intense body activity, such as running. Carbohydrates are also one of the essential nutrients for pregnant women. During the process of digestion, the source of carbohydrates will be broken down into sugars, to be then absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and into the bloodstream. This sugar is known as blood sugar (glucose). Aided by insulin, sugar in the blood will enter the body’s cells. If there is excess glucose, it will be stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. When completely unused, glucose is converted into fat.
- Limit calorie intake
The second function of carbohydrates is to limit caloric intake. How? According to scientific evidence, the high fiber content of foods containing complex carbohydrates is able to prolong satiety. Compared to fats, carbohydrates also contain fewer calories. In 1 gram of fat contained 9 calories, while in 1 gram carbohydrates contained only 4 calories.
- Lowers the risk of certain diseases
Carbohydrates also serve to reduce the risk of disease. This is based on evidence from several studies on dietary fiber from whole grains that are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and maintaining the health condition of the digestive organs. Sources of carbohydrates rich in dietary fiber include vegetables, potatoes or sweet potatoes cooked with skin, and whole grains.
- Glycemic index determinant
The glycemic index is a benchmark that assesses how quickly carbohydrates or sugars in food are absorbed into the body. The higher the glycemic index, the faster the food increases blood sugar levels. Whereas foods with a low glycemic index are slower to digest the body and do not make blood sugar rise quickly.
Research shows that the habit of consuming foods or drinks with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, sweet cakes, chocolate, and sugary soft drinks, can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Types and Sources of Carbohydrates
There are two types of carbohydrates, which are simple and complex. Complex carbohydrates take longer to process in the body, when compared to simple carbohydrates. On the bright side, complex carbohydrates will provide energy consistently, without making the body get a sudden intake of excessive calories. Complex carbohydrates are also at less risk of piling up as fat in the body.
Sugar is a simple form of carbohydrates, while flour and fiber are complex carbohydrates. Simple sugars include fructose, as well as sucrose and lactose in fruit, vegetables, milk, and dairy products.
There are several types of foods that are able to provide optimal carbohydrate function for the body. These foods include whole grains and bread containing whole grains, brown rice, brown rice, or basmati rice, pasta or cereals from whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
The recommended carbohydrate intake is about 45-65 percent of the total daily calories, or about 900-1,300 calories out of a total of 2,000 calories per day. To obtain it, a source of carbohydrates is required about 225-325 grams per day.
If you lack carbohydrates, it will likely make the body lack energy. When the body is deficient in calories derived from carbohydrates, the symptoms that can be felt are dizziness, nausea, and weakness. Extreme diets that limit carbohydrates and other nutrient intake can also put the body at risk of dehydration.
Do not underestimate the function of carbohydrates for the health of the body. If you want to implement a diet that reduces carbohydrates, first consult a nutritionist to make sure that this type of diet matches your health condition.