Before embarking on a study of carbohydrates—their role in the body, their sources, etc., we will begin by highlighting the importance of carbohydrates, defining what carbohydrates are and learning how they are formed, as well as glimpsing at a brief history of carbohydrates in the human diet.
1.1 The Importance of Carbohydrates
As mentioned in the RATIONALE earlier in this lesson, even the process of digestion could not occur without the energy provided by carbohydrates. Without carbohydrates we would not be able to think or move and our heart couldn't beat.
Whether it be digestion or circulation, thinking or walking, all life activities are dependent upon carbohydrates. When insufficient carbohydrates are available from the diet, the body converts fat reserves to carbohydrates for its use, and amino acids are utilized as carbohydrates instead of being used to make body protein.
1.2 What Are Carbohydrates?
As the lesson title implies, carbohydrates provide fuel, or energy, for the human body. These organic (carbon-containing) compounds are an integral part of both plant and animal life, and, as stated above, life as we know it could not exist without them.
Carbohydrates are made up of three elements: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen—carbohydrates. As you will learn in a later lesson, fats are also comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, but they have less oxygen and more carbon and hydrogen than carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates, along with proteins and fats, comprise the major components of living matter and are used for maintenance of cellular functional activities and as reserve and structural materials for cells. Because they are the primary source of energy for the animal kingdom, carbohydrates are particularly important in a study of nutritional science.
1.3 How Carbohydrates Are Formed
Carbohydrates are formed by green plants in the process of photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, plant chlorophyll, plant enzymes, sunlight, carbon dioxide from the air, and mineralized water from the soil combine and, in a complicated process, synthesize carbohydrates. Humans obtain their carbohydrate needs most efficiently from the plant world.
1.4 Carbohydrates: Past and Present
In the past and in some parts of the world today, people's diets consisted largely of carbohydrate foods, especially those growing locally. In most of the Western world today, however, meats and other protein/fat foods comprise a disproportionate part of the diets of many people, and processed and refined carbohydrate products are being consumed in lethal quantities.
While people do survive, at least for a relatively short lifespan, on diets high in proteins and refined carbohydrates, this survival is low-level survival, with suffering from illnesses of numerous varieties being considered the norm. A high-level state of health and well-being is possible only if our needs are met in keeping with our biological adaptation and if destructive practices are removed from our lives. The further we carry this, the healthier and happier we will be, for joy is supposed to be our primary experience in life— not suffering.
During the past 70 years or so, more and more food processing and refining establishments have been created, and they are producing horrendous qualities of highly-refined, highly-processed and highly-chemicalized so-called "foods." An extremely large proportion of these "foods" are carbohydrates—that is, they provide energy in the form of calories. But they are not real foods because they lack many of the elements from the original food source that make a food a food. For example; the germ and bran are removed from wheat, leaving only starch; and the vitamins, minerals and fiber that need to be with the starch to make the wheat a whole food are missing. Removing natural food components and then attempting to put them back by adding specified amounts of synthetic vitamins and minerals, by using bran separate from the whole wheat berries, and by taking food supplement pills and powders is the height of absurdity. First of all, it's not effective, and secondly, it's expensive, time-consuming and, most of all—UNNECESSARY!
Even physiology texts, which are medically oriented rather than health oriented, say that a casually selected diet of carbohydrates is likely to be poor in the essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Life Scientists/Natural Hygienists recognize the necessity of high-quality carbohydrates in the diet and the need to eschew the products marketed by the food industries; Hygienists advocate a return to a high-carbohydrate diet consisting of whole foods, with fiber intact, that provide our needs for complete proteins, vitamins and organic minerals.
Home > Lesson 7 - Carbohydrates - Fuel For The Human Body
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