Carbohydrates, or sugars, are made primarily of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms that cyclize into a ring.
Carbohydrates can be "simple" or "complex" depending on the number of rings you hook together and the way in which they hook together. Though the rings can be slightly different, their common theme is the ring structure as their final shape.
Similar to amino acids and fats, when you link the simple units (the sugars) together you get carbohydrates with different properties. You can link glucose units together to get a glucose polymer. In fact, when the body stores units of glucose linked together in the liver and muscle, it is called "glycogen," a term with which most people are familiar.
You can also link different kinds of sugars to get different products. For instance, if you combine glucose with fructose you get sucrose (table sugar). If you combine glucose with galactose you get lactose (milk sugar), and so on.
Link a bunch of sugars together and you get polysaccharides. Combine two sugars together like the previously mentioned lactose and you get a disaccharide. Of course, by themselves they are called monosaccharides. Are you starting to see a repeating theme here?
Link a simple unit together with other units and you get a product the body can do all sorts of things with. Linking units together gives you a product (fats, carbs, and proteins), and breaking down the products into units (ultimately) gives you energy.
You will notice I have not mentioned the "essential carbohydrates" because there is no such thing! Though the body runs best on an intake of some carbs in the diet, the body can make its own carbohydrates from protein and other non-carbohydrate substrates, as mentioned in the protein section.
Digestion reverses the process: the body breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates and ultimately blood sugar (glucose)
** You will notice I have not mentioned the "essential carbohydrates" because there is no such thing! ^
which can then be used for many different functions, such as the production of ATP (the body's universal energy molecule). Depending on the carbohydrate and other factors, different carbohydrates will have different effects on blood sugar; in particular, how fast blood sugar rises and falls.
The ability of a carbohydrate food to raise blood sugar quickly or slowly is called the glycemic index (GI). The GI was developed to track how different foods affect blood sugar.
Interestingly, many carbohydrates that are considered"complex"have been found to raise blood sugar rapidly while a few "simple" carbohydrates don't have a dramatic effect on blood sugar. The GI rating of a food is based on how much blood glucose rises after consuming a carbohydrate food over a 2 hour period. This is compared to a reference, glucose, a simple sugar.
Some GI scales now use white bread as the reference, but we will use the glucose scale in this chapter. For instance, if you consume 50 grams of glucose (yuk), you will get dramatic elevation in blood sugar. If you eat, say 50 grams of carbs found in the form of oranges, your blood glucose would probably rise approximately 44 percent when compared to glucose. So, the GI rating for oranges would be 44 on the glucose scale. Using white bread as the reference carbohydrate, it would be a different number. Capi-che?
It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
Brink's BODY Chapter 1/Good Carb Sources & Sources To Avoid
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Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. Normally, your body converts sugars, starches and other foods into a form of sugar called glucose. Your body uses glucose for fuel. The cells receive the glucose through the bloodstream. They then use insulin a hormone made by the pancreas to absorb the glucose, convert it into energy, and either use it or store it for later use. Learn more...