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Carbohydrates are energy sources and allies of the brain

Carbohydrates are energy sources and allies of the brain

Carbohydrate is a macronutrient formed fundamentally by molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. This macronutrient, when ingested and absorbed, is responsible for releasing glucose, delivering energy to cells as the first source of cellular energy, and maintaining glycemic metabolism so that the body continues to function well.

Carbohydrate Types

According to with the amount of carbon atoms in their molecules, carbohydrates can be divided into:

  • Monosaccharides: They have 3 to 7 carbons in their structure: glucose, fructose and galactose
  • Dissaccharides: Result of the bond between two monosaccharides: sucrose, maltose and lactose
  • Polysaccharides: Molecules formed by the union of several monosaccharides.

The following types of carbohydrates are part of the monosaccharides:

  • Glucose: Sugar present in corn syrup, honey, potatoes, rice, flour, sweets etc. ...
  • Fructose: Sugar present in fruits
  • Galactose: It is not found free in nature. Combined with glucose it forms the lactose. It is present in milk and dairy products.

The following carbohydrates are part of the disaccharides:

  • Sucrose: Table sugar. Extracted from sugar cane, beet, grape and honey
  • Maltose: It is the sugar of malt. It is not found free in nature. It is obtained by the industry through the fermentation of cereals in germination, such as barley
  • Lactose: It is milk sugar. Synthesized in the mammary glands of mammals.

The following carbohydrates are part of the polysaccharides:

  • Starch: It is the energy reserve of vegetables. They are present in grains and cereals such as wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn, rice, roots and tubers such as manioc, potatoes and yams
  • Cellulose: Cellulose is present in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.

Simple and complex carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates have a small molecular chemical structure (monosaccharides and disaccharides). The digestion and absorption of simple carbohydrates happens rapidly leading to an increase in blood glucose levels (glycemia). Examples of foods that are sources of simple carbohydrates: fruits, honey, corn syrup, sugar.

Complex carbohydrates have a larger chemical structure (polysaccharides). Being a larger molecule they are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing a gradual increase of blood glucose.

Proven carbohydrate benefits

Source of energy: When we ingest carbohydrates, we have glucose in the bloodstream constantly, this is the main source of carbohydrates in this group: brown rice, sweet potatoes, molecule that supplies energy to the cells of the body.

Brain ally: The brain is one of the organs that do not work without glucose available in the bloodstream, when there is a decrease in the consumption of this nutrient there is an exaggerated production of bodies ketones, since the body uses proteins as a source of energy. These ketone bodies can lead to intoxication in the individual leading to undesirable symptoms such as headaches, bad breath, loss of skeletal muscle mass, insomnia, mood swings, tremors and even fainting.

Noodles are a good source of simple carbohydrates - Photo: Getty Images

Protects muscles: When our body has the correct amounts of carbohydrates, it is not necessary to use the energies of proteins (amino acids of skeletal muscle mass). Thus, the proteins can be used to repair the muscles that suffered micro-injuries due to the practice of exercises and also to the correct maintenance of this muscular mass. These muscles are repaired and become stronger and, depending on the amount, may even increase (hypertrophy). But remember that even the excess carbohydrate can generate accumulation of body fat

They provide satiety: This benefit applies only to complex carbohydrates. This is because they have a larger chemical structure (polysaccharides). Because it is a larger molecule, they are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing a gradual increase in blood glucose and satiety for a longer time. This same mechanism makes complex carbohydrates the type indicated for diabetics, for those who are in an alimentary (diet) program seeking satiety and maintenance of blood glucose, for those who will do physical activity as a pre workout and also for those who use the fibers of complex carbohydrates to improve the lipid profile (improvement of cholesterol).

Allied mood and well-being: Decreased carbohydrate consumption may affect the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter capable of influencing mood and well-being of individuals.

Carbohydrate Deficiency

Lack of carbohydrates can lead to a depletion of the immune system, since our muscles are responsible for providing glutamine for immune cell formation. In the absence of carbohydrates, the muscles are affected, since as has been said above, the proteins are used as energy source.

The individual who restricts carbohydrate consumption may lack energy and fatigue especially if they practice activity physical. Muscles are responsible for storing glycogen (glucose) to provide energy for physical activity. This stock of glycogen lasts on average 1 hour, after which we must consume the carbohydrate in order to recover the stocks of muscular glycogen. The liver is another organ that stores glycogen, thereby providing energy as another reservoir for the body.

If the subject does not have glucose available for use in cells, such as in fasting or restrictive diets, the lipids will be oxidized , forming an excessive amount of ketones that can cause metabolic acidosis in the body, which can lead to symptoms such as headache, dizziness, bad breath. The main symptoms of the lack of carbohydrates in the diet are fatigue, dizziness, nausea, nervousness, weakness and tremors.

Studies published in the American Journal of Nutrition (2001) and the Brazilian Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that the imbalance in the proportion of macronutrients can be harmful to health, since the exchange of carbohydrates by proteins leads the individual to a picture of ketosis, caused by restriction of glucose. The adverse repercussions of ketosis include dehydration, constipation, renal lithiasis and micronutrient deficiency, decreased consumption of fruits, vegetables and grains, along with increased urea and uric acid by excess dietary protein. That's why restrictive carbohydrate diets are not recommended.

Carbohydrate Combinations

It's interesting to combine carbohydrates with the consumption of lean proteins or good fats. The main sources of carbohydrates are: honey, breads, toast, potatoes, rice, cereals.

Carbohydrate sources

The main sources of carbohydrates are:

See an example of carbohydrate consumption in one day:

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread = 50 g
  • 1 apple = 16.6 g
  • 2 tablespoons of brown rice = 25.8 g
  • 1 small bean shell = 6.8 g
  • 4 units of whole-grain biscuit = 19 g
  • 200 ml of orange juice = 21, 5 g
  • 1 plate of cooked pasta (80g) = 58 g
  • 1 large persimmon = 28 g

Recommended quantity of carbohydrates

The World Health Organization recommends that the distribution of macronutrients to individuals 55 to 75% of carbohydrates, 10 to 15% of proteins and 15 to 30% of fats. If an individual has an energy expenditure of 2000 calories a day, it could consume from 1100 kcal to 1500 kcal from carbohydrates. In grams we would have a serving of 275g to 375g of carbohydrates.Sweet potato is a good source of complex carbohydrates - Photo: Getty Images

However, it is important to give preference to whole and present carbohydrates in the fruits that have the most fibers in their composition. Thus, they are digested more slowly in the stomach, avoiding what we call a glycemic peak, that is, when a very large amount of glucose is released into the bloodstream, which can increase the risk of overweight, obesity and diseases such as insulin resistance

Carbohydrates fat

Nutrients should be consumed according to a distribution established by research and scientific institutions, as mentioned above. An imbalance in the consumption of any of the macronutrients may increase the risks of weight gain. Carbohydrates are seen as villains because when they are consumed in excess, insulin transforms excess glucose into triacylglycerol, a type of fat that is stored in adipose tissue. It is worth remembering that excess protein and fat can also be accumulated in the form of fat, increasing adipose tissue. Another recommendation is not to exaggerate in fruits because of the fructose that acts in the increase of the insulin resistance and also because it is harmful mainly when consumed in isolation. Always associate with a fiber, such as unsweetened whole grain cereal or unsweetened nonfat yogurt.

Carbohydrates and diabetics

It is important that people with diabetes prioritize complex carbohydrates, they have low glycemic index, which is the speed with which glucose enters the body. Another point is that these carbohydrates have a low glycemic load, which is the amount of glucose that will enter the body.

Risks of excessive consumption of carbohydrates

Research indicates that the excessive consumption of carbohydrate food can cause in the weight gain and increased levels of blood triglycerides. The risk of type 2 diabetes also increase. This is because excessive consumption of carbohydrates, especially non-full carbohydrates, can lead to a significant increase in the release of insulin into the blood. With this increase in chronic insulin, a resistance of the insulin receptors in the cells can occur, causing the glucose to remain in the blood and not be absorbed into the cells.

High-carbohydrate recipes

9 recipes for pizzas up to 300 calories

Noodles with broccoli

  • Whole grain bread with oats
  • Source consulted:
  • Nutritionist Karina Valentim of PB Nutrition Consulting


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