It’s everyone favorite dietary debate: are carbohydrates good or bad for you?
Some say to eat certain carbs and avoid others, some say the opposite – all in an attempt at being healthy.
While many see carbs as simply a tool to gain weight, the biological molecules are actually used by the body as energy, fueling every cell and organ in your body.
And just like anything, eating too much is unhealthy. You can gain weight, develop insulin-resistance or even type 2 diabetes.
On the YouTube channel BrainCraft, host Vanessa Hill explains how carbs are broken down by the body and their positive and negative effects.
Vanessa explains that carbohydrates are our bodies’ main fuel source. They provide the body with energy to perform throughout the day.
Carbs fall into three categories: sugars, starches and dietary fibers.
The sugars are found in things like milk and fruit, starches in pasta and potatoes, and dietary fibers in foods like vegetables.
ENTERING THE INTESTINE
Both starches and dietary fibers are made up of long chains of sugars and, when we eat them, both saliva and stomach acid break down the long chains into shorter chains.
Once the food reaches the small intestine, the pancreas releases an enzyme called pancreatic amylase that breaks down the starches’ molecular bonds until the chains are turned into bonded sugar molecules.
BREAKING DOWN SUGAR MOLECULES
These bonds are much stronger and can’t be broken down and, therefore, can’t be digested. So they pass down through the rest of the digestive system.
Once starches are broken down, the small intestine releases enzymes that break down sugar molecules even further, which are then absorbed into the blood stream.
The most important of these sugar molecules is glucose.
Glucose is an important energy source needed by all the cells and organs of our bodies, including our muscles and brains.
In fact, our brain uses about half of our body’s sugar needs.
YOUR BODY ON TOO MANY CARBS
However, there is such a thing as eating too many carbohydrates.
When you eat too many carbs, your blood sugar rises. Your pancreas then releases insulin to bring your blood sugar down and store some of it as energy for later.
This is why many athletes load up on carbs in their diets – so that they have energy stored for when they need it.
When you eat complex carbs, such as whole grains and vegetables, your body converts the natural sugars into energy.
But it’s different with refined carbs such as white bread, pasta, muffins, chips and soda.
Insulin is a fat storage hormone and when more insulin circulates in your blood stream, your body converts the carbohydrates to fat and stores them on your buttocks, thighs, abdomen and hips, making you gain weight.
Too much sugar in the brain can lead to cell aging and death, and insulin regulates blood sugar levels to prevent this.
But if you eat more sugar than your body needs, you can develop insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Vanessa says that the important thing to remember is that food is fuel, and that carbs, protein, and fat should all be eaten in moderation.