We explain what carbohydrates are, what their structure is like and what they are for. Also, what are its general characteristics and examples.
The main characteristic of carbohydrates is that they fulfill an energetic function in the body . The simpler the carbohydrate molecule, the faster it is converted by certain processes that occur in the body into energy. For this reason, glucose (which is a monosaccharide) is one of the main energy molecules that is used to maintain muscle and neuronal activity in the human body .
The body only uses carbohydrates to store energy for short periods of time , for example, in the bloodstream. This is because a gram of carbohydrates stores 4 calories, while a gram of fat (lipids) stores 9 calories.
For this reason, the human body stores energy in the long term in the form of fats . When excess carbohydrates are consumed, that is, more than is required for immediate energy, the body transforms them into fat for storage.
Carbohydrates also fulfill structural functions in the cell and this is observed mainly in plants . Vegetables have a thicker cell wall than animals , which allows them to stand upright. This cell wall contains carbohydrates.
Dietary fibers are, for the most part, complex carbohydrates that cannot be digested by our body , so their function is not to provide energy.
Within dietary fiber, soluble fiber comes mainly from legumes, fruits and vegetables , and performs the function of lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood and blood pressure.
On the other hand, its presence in the blood allows regulating sugar and insulin levels , avoiding peaks that are harmful for people suffering from diabetes .
Insoluble fibers are cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignans . These substances promote bowel movement and help give food volume and texture.
Food sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains and breads made from them, vegetables, wheat germ, and bran.
Monosaccharides or simple sugars are carbohydrates with the simplest molecular structure . These carbohydrates are not hydrolyzed, that is, they cannot be broken down into structures smaller than their molecule because they are unbranched carbon chains.
They are sweet in taste and are soluble in water . Examples of monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and galactose.
Although disaccharides are a type of oligosaccharide , they require greater attention since they are the most abundant oligosaccharides in nature, where they are found as free structures.
They are formed from two identical or different monosaccharides . Hydrolysis of a disaccharide results in the individual monosaccharides that make it up. The most common disaccharides in food are:
They are carbohydrates formed by the union of two to ten monosaccharides (they include disaccharides). However, oligosaccharides of three or more molecules are not usually found as free structures in nature like disaccharides but are bound to lipid or protein molecules .
They are structures of more than ten monosaccharides and can be linear or have branches . Because they are complex carbohydrates, their molecules break down more slowly until they are converted by the body into glucose or other monosaccharides.
For this reason, polysaccharides are the carbohydrates that must be selected as food to have a progressive flow of energy throughout the day. Examples of polysaccharides are cellulose and starch .
The importance of reduction is that these sugars can react with protein molecules .
All disaccharides are reducing , with the exception of sucrose. Glucose, a monosaccharide, is the most abundant reducing agent in the body.