Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Truth About Carbohydrates

There's been a lot of talk and confusion about Carbohydrate consumption -- no carbs? low carbs? all carbs? So what's the right answer?  The truth is that Carbohydrates are essential to good health.  

Carbohydrates are compounds which consist of carbon, plus hydrogen and oxygen in the same proportion as the are found in water.  Carbohydrates are synthesized in plants with the help of sunlight from the carbon dioxide of air and water.  They are primarily obtained from plant sources and are the cheapest, most easily obtainable nutrients and the most rapidly digested forms of fuel for the body.  

There are 3 groups of Carbohydrates - Monosaccharides, Disaccharides and Polysaccharides
1. Monosaccharides - single sugars
• Glucose - main source of energy for cells
• Fructose - fruits, vegetables and honey
• Galactose - one of the end products of lactose digestion

2. Disaccharides (2 simple sugars)
• sucrose (invert or table sugar)
• lactose (milk)
• maltose (malt sugar - grains)

3. Polysaccharides - complex carbohydrates made up of multiple monosaccharides, that break down slowly
• starch - grains, beets, potatoes
• glycogen - animal starch and the form in which we store carbs in the liver and muscle
• cellulose - provides roughage for gastrointestinal health
• hemicellulose - bran, an undigestible grain fiber

Function of Carbohydrates
• Provides energy and act as fuel for muscles, including the heart
• Fuel for the nervous system
• Carbohydrates function in the liver as a protective and detoxifying agent
• Carbohydrates in the liver have a regulating influence on protein and fat metabolism
• Carbohydrates tend to conserve water and electrolytes in the body, as they hold potassium and sodium
• Carbohydrates prevent muscle wasting, as they are used first for energy production and spare protein for muscle synthesis
• Fermentation of lactose encourages growth of normal bacterial flora
• Carbohydrate lactose appears to increase calcium retention

Blueberries are an excellent source of Carbohydrates, and research shows they are great brain food, too. As you know, LNH is a big supporter of organic produce.  That said, we realize organic produce may be difficult to find in some areas.  Conventionally grown blueberries do not hold high quantities of pesticides as other fruits (such as conventionally grown strawberries).  So wash them well and enjoy!


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