Carbohydrates In Nature
Some vegans may tell me that some non-vegans are uncorrectable but perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.
With the never-ending diet debates going on in the world today, please raise your hand if you’ve never heard the “Vegan diets have too many carbs” motto.
But what are carbohydrates and what is their role in nutrition?
Carbohydrates are probably the most abundant and widespread organic substances in nature, and they are essential constituents of all living things. Carbohydrates are formed by green plants from carbon dioxide and water during the process of photosynthesis. Carbohydrates serve as energy sources and as essential structural components in organisms.
In addition, part of the structure of nucleic acids, which contain genetic information, consists of carbohydrate.
The importance of carbohydrates to living things can hardly be overemphasized. The energy stores of most animals and plants are both carbohydrate and lipid in nature. Carbohydrates are generally available as an immediate energy source, whereas lipids act as a long-term energy resource and tend to be utilized at a slower rate.
Glucose, the prevalent uncombined, or free, sugar circulating in the blood of higher animals, is essential to cell function. The proper regulation of glucose metabolism is of paramount importance to survival.
Although a number of classification schemes have been devised for carbohydrates, the division into four major groups, monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides, used here is among the most common.
Monosaccharides, also called simple sugars, are the simplest form of sugar and the most basic units (monomers) of carbohydrates.
Examples of monosaccharides include glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose), and galactose.
Disaccharides, also called a double sugar is the sugar formed when two monosaccharides are joined by glycosidic linkage. Like monosaccharides, disaccharides are simple sugars soluble in water. Three common examples are sucrose, lactose, and maltose.
Oligosaccharides are saccharide polymers containing a small number (typically three to ten) of monosaccharides (simple sugars). Oligosaccharides can have many functions including cell recognition and cell binding. For example, glycolipids have an important role in the immune response.
They are normally present as glycans: oligosaccharide chains are linked to lipids or to compatible amino acid side chains in proteins.
Polysaccharides, are the most abundant carbohydrate found in food. They are long chain polymeric carbohydrates composed of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic linkages. This carbohydrate can react with water (hydrolysis) using amylase enzymes as catalyst, which produces constituent sugars (monosaccharides, or oligosaccharides). They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Examples include storage polysaccharides such as starch, glycogen and galactogen and structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and chitin.
What’s most important is the type of carbohydrate you choose to eat because some sources are healthier than others. The amount of carbohydrate in the diet – high or low – is less important than the type of carbohydrate in the diet. For example, healthy, whole grains such as whole wheat bread, rye, barley and quinoa are better choices than highly refined white bread or French fries.
The complex carbohydrates found in whole plant foods are highly beneficial. Not only are they an essential part of any healthy diet, they should actually make up the great majority of it.
Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of both healthy and unhealthy foods and they also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches.
Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. But carbohydrate quality is important.
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates, unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans, promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease if consumed in excess.
Some evidence suggests that whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fiber may also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health.
Evidence shows that eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you control your weight. Their bulk and fiber content aids weight control by helping you feel full on fewer calories. Contrary to what low-carb diets claim, very few studies show that a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity.
Healthy carbohydrates work better in a whole-foods plant-based diet by emphasizing fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains, eating more legumes and limiting added sugars.
As can be easily confirmed by the positions of major Nutrition and Dietetics Associations, a whole-foods, plant-based diet when appropriately planned is healthful and nutritionally adequate.
Non-human animals should not be needlessly killed for temporary nutrition related sensory pleasure.
Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
And please research the publicly verifiable evidence available online, other vegans may not be as forgiving as I am.
Foods high in carbohydrates include breads, fruits and vegetables – Getty Images