A Christian Guide to Body Stewardship, Diet and Exercise

Chapter 2: Basic Nutrition 20 calories per day (for the general population). A helpful visual to consider when choosing foods is to aim for half your plate to be fruits and vegetables and about a quarter to be starchy vegetables or grains. The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for muscle contractions. Although the body can use proteins and fats for energy, it is not preferred and comes at a cost (e.g., decreased mental/athletic performance and muscle catabolism (breaking down of muscle tissue)). Carbohydrates come in simple forms such as sugars and complex forms such as starches and fiber. They can be broken down into three categories: monosaccharides (one sugar molecule), disaccharides (two sugar molecules), and polysaccharides (long chains of sugar molecules). Monosaccharides and disaccharides are classified as simple carbohydrates as they are easily and quickly digested, whereas polysaccharides are classified as complex carbohydrates as they take longer for the body to digest. This is an important consideration for individuals with diseases like diabetes and glucose insensitivity as polysaccharides, due to their slower rates of digestion and absorption, help to prevent spikes in blood sugar. Table 2.4 lists the different classifications of carbohydrates as well as sample foods in which they can be found. Table 2.4. Classification of Carbohydrates Carbohydrates can be found in a variety of foods such as grains (e.g., bread, rice, pasta, cereals, oatmeal), fruits, starchy vegetables and dairy products. Fiber is also a type of carbohydrate found in plants and cannot be broken down by the body. Fiber has several health benefits to include aiding in digestion and helping to prevent constipation. Additionally, fiber helps you feel full faster and stay full longer, which can be helpful in terms of weight management. Fiber also plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy environment within our digestive tract (thereby decreasing the risk of disease), reducing the rise in blood Simple Carbohydrates Complex Carbohydrates Monosaccharides Disaccharides Polysaccharides Glucose Form of sugar circulating in the blood after foods are broken down Maltose Glucose + glucose; form of sugar found in bread and cereals Glycogen Chains of glucose stored in the muscles and liver Fructose Form of sugar found in fruits Sucrose Glucose + fructose (aka table sugar) Starch Chains of glucose found in grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables Galactose Form of sugar found in milk Lactose Galactose + glucose; form of sugar found in dairy products Fiber Chains of monosaccharides that cannot be separated by the body therefore less is absorbed