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Understanding Carbohydrates


Carbohydrates are a group of food important to the body because they give us energy. Foods which are high in carbs are things like sugars, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and several other items. 
Like everything in life, moderation is important. That means only using the amount we need; not too much, not too little. Too many carbs doesn’t mean lots of energy, it actually ends up having the opposite effect. To understand why this happens, it is important to learn how the body uses carbs and turns them into energy.

After a person consumes carbs, the food travels through the digestive system where special enzymes turn carbs into the simple sugar, glucose. The body then uses the glucose and turns it into molecules of energy to help the cells of the body do their jobs.
If a person consumes the right amount of carbs in their diet, then the body can function in a proper and healthy way. The problems occur when we don’t eat the right amounts of different nutrients which we need. Not eating enough healthy carbs will have a person very weak and unable to participate in fun activities or sports. On the other hand, eating too many carbs, healthy or unhealthy, can seriously damage the body in different ways.

When the body has too many carbs, much more than it needs, it will still convert carbs into glucose, but because the body doesn’t need the extra glucose as energy, it will save it to use later in the form of fat. This is why unhealthy habits like eating lots of carbs or avoiding exercise can make people gain extra weight.
An important organ in the body to know about is the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for creating insulin. Insulin is important because each insulin molecule pairs with a glucose molecule, and that’s how the cells get energy. Molecules of glucose in the body which do not have an insulin friend to pair with can not be used to form energy. This contributes a great deal to the formation of fat or terrible illnesses like diabetes

Type-2 diabetes: Insulin doesn't fit well in the receptor, so the gate doesn't open for glucose to enter the cell.

Diabetes is what happens when the body has lots of glucose in it that can not be used as energy. Too much glucose floating around in a person’s bloodstream can damage cells and cause important organs to fail or shut down. This is why it is important to develop healthy eating habits.

There are two main types of diabetes which affect people. In Type-I diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to be paired with the glucose. Without having enough insulin in the body, the glucose levels in the blood rise and cause organ-failure. It is believed that this happens to the pancreas’ of people already sensitive to developing diabetes because of their genetics. When these individuals stress the pancreas by eating too many carbs all the time, the pancreas gets tired and stops producing as much insulin. This is why it is important for everyone, especially diabetic and prediabetic people, to eat carbohydrates in moderation. 

The other type of diabetes is Type-II. This is a very difficult type to manage because even though the pancreas produces insulin, the insulin is imperfect and doesn’t want to be friends with the body’s cells and glucose. If the cells, insulin, and glucose can’t work in harmony, then the body can not convert the glucose into energy. With the extra glucose floating around in the bloodstream, the blood sugar levels rise and cause organ-failure. 

If a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it becomes critically important for them to take extra good care of their health. This means drinking lots of water to flush out the extra sugars from the body, monitoring and maintaining healthy levels of sugar in their unique bodies, taking insulin shots as directed by the doctor, exercising regularly to use up the converted energy, and many other healthy habits.

Now that you know more about carbs, consider these questions:

  1. Does my diet have a variety of nutrients in it?

  2. Do I eat too many carbohydrates?

  3. Am I drinking enough water to keep my body hydrated and clean?

  4. What are some yummy healthy snacks I can enjoy instead of chips?

  5. Do I get enough exercise each day to keep my energy levels healthy and high?

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