Worldwide and throughout all of history, carbohydrates have been the primary source of energy and sustenance for humans. The relative low cost, long shelf life, and availability make carbohydrates an ideal food source. Foods like rice, bread, and potatoes are staple items across almost all cultures. Rice alone feeds an estimated 3.5 billion people worldwide. With so much prominence in our diets, it is valuable to examine the importance and functions of carbohydrates.
Aside from feeding the world and being a dietary staple, there are other key points that make carbohydrates important in our diets. Complex carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes should make up most of the calories we consume. After digestion has occurred, these foods provide our body with glucose, the preferred energy source for our cells. Carbohydrates also provide other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. We will cover these nutrients and their functions in future blogs but for now it is important to know that carbohydrates are not just a one dimensional source of energy.
When you choose carbohydrates wisely, they should provide you with well rounded nutrition. Our overnight oatmeal provides a balanced profile of nutrients that is meant to add value to your diet through high quality organic ingredients. Not all carbohydrate sources are the same. For example, 250 calories of cake will not be as beneficial as 250 calories of overnight oatmeal. This is because the nutrient profile for these two items will be vastly different. One will provide you with little to no nutrients and will spike your blood sugar, the other will provide you with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthy fats that will boost your health, not take away from it.
Central Nervous System Health
The central nervous system (CNS) and brain, depend on carbohydrates for energy. The emergency reserves found in the brain and CNS only last about 10-15 minutes, making them dependent on a constant supply of glucose from the blood. Sustained hypoglycemic shock (very low blood sugar) can cause brain damage. You may recall a time when you did not eat and had a brain fog that cleared after taking in some food.
Carbohydrates prevent the breakdown of bodily proteins for energy. This is because carbs help regulate protein metabolism. This means the protein you consume and have available in your body will be used for tissue building instead of energy needed to maintain homeostasis. This means carbs help establish gains and muscle growth.
The glycogen found in the liver and muscles is always being used in exchange with the body’s energy system. This is an energy reserve that is used to protect body cells, specifically those found in the brain from damage. During periods of fasting, depressed metabolic function, or injury the glycogen found in the body is used for energy.
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