Simple sugars are the easiest carbohydrate for our bodies to digest. They can be broken down into four categories:
1. Monosaccharides – This is the base unit of simple sugars.
2. Disaccharides – These carbohydrates need water and an enzyme, a protein in the body responsible for a specific reaction, to break them down into something the body can utilize.
3. Oligosaccharides – Mostly found in plant foods and utilized in the large intestines for beneficial bacteria.
4. Polysaccharides – They are considered complex carbohydrates because they contain quite a few sugars.
Carbohydrates come from sources that are living. They contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. There are three categories: simple sugars, starches, and fiber.
Some may think that carbohydrates are bad, but that is a broad generalization. Some forms are not the healthiest and should be consumed in moderation while other forms are important for energy in the body. The better types include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. The types to be more conscious with are usually found in processed foods like cakes, muffins, and foods made with white flour.
Carbohydrates begin to break down in our mouth as we start to chew them. Our saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that aids in digestion of carbohydrates. The rest of the carbohydrates go right through the stomach and are digested in the small intestines where the nutrients, now glucose or sugar, are absorbed into the blood for use by the body. The brain tells the pancreas to release insulin which is used to place the excess glucose into the muscles for storage. These glucose stores are later used for energy.
If excessive amounts of carbohydrates are consumed then the blood sugar levels will rise rapidly. Our bodies can only handle a certain amount of sugar or glucose in our blood. At this point insulin is released and some of the glucose is stored in the muscles. Unfortunately, our muscles can only hold so much, the rest of the extra glucose is surrounded and “stored” in various places that the body deems safe. These stores become fat deposits in our body. This is why it’s important to be aware of the nutrients you’re consuming.