Benefits of Carbohydrates
Are carbohydrates good for you? People who wish to lose weight often hear that carbohydrates are bad for them. Some diets completely forbid carbohydrate consumption, claiming that a low-carbohydrate diet helps people to lose weight faster. However, carbohydrates have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years. In fact, artifacts from ancient civilizations show the presence of wheat, rice, and corn in our ancestors’ storage areas.
Eating Balanced Diets
You should supplement carbohydrates with proteins, vitamins, and fats. These are all parts of a well-balanced diet (see image above). Calorie-wise, a gram of carbohydrate provides 4.3 Kcal. For comparison, fats provide 9 Kcal/g, a less desirable ratio.
Carbohydrates contain soluble and insoluble elements. We call the insoluble part, fiber, which is mostly cellulose. Fiber has many uses; it promotes regular bowel movement by adding bulk, and it regulates the rate of consumption of blood glucose. Fiber also helps to remove excess cholesterol from the body: fiber binds to the cholesterol in the small intestine, then attaches to the cholesterol and prevents the cholesterol particles from entering the bloodstream, and then cholesterol exits the body via the feces. Fiber-rich diets also have a protective role in reducing the occurrence of colon cancer.
In addition, a meal containing whole grains and vegetables gives a feeling of fullness. As an immediate source of energy, glucose is broken down during the process of cellular respiration, which produces ATP, the energy currency of the cell.
Without the consumption of carbohydrates, “instant energy” would rarely be available. Eliminating carbohydrates from the diet is not the best way to lose weight. A low-calorie diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat, together with plenty of exercise and plenty of water, is the more sensible way to lose weight.
Career Connection: Dietitians
Obesity is a worldwide health concern, and many diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are becoming more prevalent because of obesity. This is one of the reasons why registered dietitians are increasingly sought after for advice.
Registered dietitians help plan nutrition programs for individuals in various settings. They often work with patients in health care facilities, designing nutrition plans to treat and prevent diseases. For example, dietitians may teach a patient with diabetes how to manage blood sugar levels by eating the correct types and amounts of carbohydrates. Dietitians may also work in nursing homes, schools, and private practices.
To become a registered dietitian, one needs to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, nutrition, food technology, or a related field. In addition, registered dietitians must complete a supervised internship program and pass a national exam.
Those who pursue careers in dietetics take courses in nutrition, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and human physiology. Dietitians must become experts in the chemistry and physiology (biological functions) of food (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats).
Short video: How do carbohydrates impact your health?
The things we eat and drink on a daily basis can impact our health in big ways. Too many carbohydrates, for instance, can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. But what are carbs, exactly? And what do they do to our bodies? Richard J. Wood explains in this TED-Ed video below.