Those Delectable Carbohydrates

In some parts of the world, carbohydrates make up as much as 80% of food energy intake. I have a weakness for breads and potato chips so I do not find this surprising even in an “affluent” society. This is not ideal. We need more than a sugar rush. Breaking down the word we see Carbo  = carbon, hydrate = water; usually two hydrogen atoms to every oxygen atom. You don’t need this information now, but it makes it easier to remember and it may come in useful later on.

Carbs can be analyzed in three different groupings: monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides. For digestion and absorption purposes this can be very important– a person could have a bowel disorder or diabetes which needs to be factored in when deciding how carbs are to be introduced into the body. We know that mono = one; di =two; poly = many. Thus a polysaccharide is a complex sugar that must be broken down before the bowel (gut) can absorb it into the blood stream to feed the body.

For example, for the person using Ganoderma Lucidum (the Reishi mushroom), the heavy polysaccharide chain is broken down best with added consumption of up to 1,000 mg of Vitamin C per day. You can take it in a slow release capsule at the beginning of the day or take smaller doses with meals. If you get diarrhea from that high a dose,  you have exceeded your toleration level of Vitamin C so start at a low dosage and increase each day to find what level suits you. Only your body can tell you what that might be.

Since Ganoderma Lucidum has over 200 identified nutrient properties, it isn’t crucial to break these chains down to receive high health value. However, if you are like me, I like the biggest bang for my buck and I want whatever usefulness these heavy polysaccharide chains can give my body to use. After all, my body is smarter than I am. I just throw food at it (eat) and my body does the rest. Thus, I’ve added Vitamin C to my daily routine.

As always, consult with your health care professional. Use these blogs as tools to

  • understand better about what you hear and
  • pay attention to your body and
  • ask relevant questions to your care team.

Monosaccharides

These are the simplest and most important monosaccharide sugars from a nutritional perspective:  glucose/dextrose and  fructose found in free form in sweet fruits and honey, and galactose which is not found free in our food. The differences are in the way the atoms are arranged in the molecules.

How can you use this information? You will have a better idea of what you are looking at when you read labels. A diabetic, when the blood sugar has dropped too low can use a dose of this sugar right away, but not too much or a yo-yo effect could take place of too much sugar within a half hour, causing the body to react to that as best it can… A person with absorption problems may need this source of energy because the bowel may be too ill to break down a di- or poly- saccharide before absorption. This simply means the undigestables simply flush through the intestines.

Disaccharides

A disaccharide is composed of two monosaccharides bound together chemically by a molecule of water being eliminated. A great illustration to encourage drinking plenty of water each day– the addition of a water molecule splits the disaccharide bond.

  • sucrose: table sugar, in sugar cane, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables; combination of two monosaccharides glucose and fructose
  • lactose: milk sugar from mammary glands of lactating mammals; combination of galactose and glucose
  • maltose: malt sugar, an immediate product in the digestion of starch in our intestines, in germinating seeds, beer, some breakfast cereals; combination of two monosaccharides glucose and glucose

Polysaccharides

Logically you can determine from what we have discussed above that polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates of many monosaccharide units joined together. Starch is the storage form of glucose in plants. Glycogen is the animal counterpart to starch, similar in structure. Like animals storing glucose in liver and muscle tissue.

Cellulose is a structural component in plants, not digestible in humans. It is the most abundant organic molecule on earth. The manner in which the glucose units are joined together is different from starch or glucogen. As a result, cellulose is a structural polysaccharide offering rigidity and strength in plants, resistent to our digestive enzymes.

More carbohydrate information in Nutrition; Part 6

Janet Wiebe 

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