Alright guys. The moment has arrived. I’m going to get real technical with you all and share what I learned in my nutrition course last year… I’m going to break it down into three parts: Carbohydrates, Fat and Protein. Every part might be divided too but I will see how it goes.
I’m going to start with Carbohydrates because well I can’t go a day without my carbohydrates. The course was very technical so I’m going to take pieces from it and break it down but you’re more than welcome to take the course yourself! It’s on edx. Here is the link — https://courses.edx.org/courses/course-v1:WageningenX+NUTR101x+2T2016/course/ — I do want to point out that most of the technical information comes from this course because well this is where I learned all my technical things related to nutrition. I really just want to share what I learned for those who want to read real nutrition facts without doing a lot of effort. I will add some stuff I learned from my own experience but you will see once you scroll down. You see I know how much fake information is out there so information backed with resources and research is important to me. This course has this. Really if you have the time take this course. You will probably recognize bits and pieces from here if you do.
Before I start, the pieces I take from the course will be in cursive and my words will be well you know, normal. I will try my best not to overwhelm you between what I say and what the course say. I also don’t want to copy and paste from the course but there is a lot of important information.
Part one in the carbohydrates category we’re going to talk about the chemistry of carbohydrates. There is a lot of terms, I mean when I was going through all the information there wasn’t much I could say that the course didn’t cover. I had to rethink the structure of this blog quite a bit because how it was looking was basically a copy and paste from the course, two and a half pages of it. So I will be breaking it down and will clearly point out when I’m using material from the course and when it’s me talking, or well writing. You know the drill by now. Let’s just jump in!
I’m also going to make little graphs via PowerPoint to simplify what I can.
Chemistry of carbohydrates
When you’re very deep down in the fitness world you will probably hear macro counting somewhere down the line. This isn’t a guide how to macro count, heck I’ve never tried it so I can’t really explain the how’s. This is more a technical breakdown with a bunch of information about everything to educate you about how the body works and overall improve your nutritional knowledge. Macronutrients (or macros) is divided into three parts; carbohydrates, fat and protein.
What is carbohydrates? What is their chemical composition? The course answers all of this.
Carbohydrates can be separated into simple carbohydrates, sometimes referred to as sugars, and complex carbohydrates. But for now we’ll concentrate on the simple carbohydrates, which can be separated into monosaccharides and disaccharides.
The monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose.
The disaccharides are composed of these three monosaccharides. We have maltose, which is composed of two molecules of glucose. We have sucrose, which is composed of a molecule of glucose linked to fructose. And we have lactose, which is composed of glucose linked to galactose. All these mono and disaccharides exist in our diet with the exception of galactose, which is only present in our diet as part of lactose.
The monosaccharides can be directly absorbed into our bloodstream so they don’t require any digestion. However, the disaccharides need to be broken down to the individual monosaccharides. This process is part of normal digestion and is called hydrolysis. We can break down the disaccharides into the individual monosaccharides through hydrolysis. And as an example we can have sucrose, which is an important part of our diet, it is table sugar, and it can undergo hydrolysis to yield the individual monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Through that process we are able to utilize the energy that is available in the disaccharides by forming the monosaccharides which can be subsequently absorbed into the bloodstream and used as an energy source.
Now that we’ve discussed simple carbohydrates with the help of the course we can now move onto next part. We will discuss a lot about sugars so try to keep track. I know this is a lot of technical terms that some of you might not be that interested in but stay patient. This is some great information.
In the previous paragraph we talked about simple carbohydrates and we said that they are often referred to as the sugars, and that they include the monosaccharides and disaccharides. However, in colloquial terms, sugar is most often used to describe crystalline table sugar, which in chemical terms is sucrose. When we talk about blood sugar, actually we refer to glucose in the blood. There are also other sugars: invert sugar or inverted sugar is a mixture of equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Invert sugar is a little bit sweeter than sucrose and has a number of industrial uses including in the production of alcoholic beverages. It is also used by food manufacturers to retard the crystallization of sugar and to retain moisture in packaged food. A natural form of invert sugar is actually honey.
That my folks wraps up simple carbohydrates. Now we’re going to move onto complex carbohydrates. What is complex carbohydrates? The course will answer this.
Complex carbohydrates are also referred to as polysaccharides and there are three main groups. We have glycogen, which is a very minor component of our diet. We have the starches, which are a very important component of our diet and we have fibres.
So let’s focus on the starches and on specifically the amylopectin and the amylose component of the starch, because starch is basically a polymer of glucose. So, many glucose molecules link together in either a linear chain, which is called amylose, or a branched chain, which is called amylopectin, and together they form starch. Now depending on the type of food – rice, bread, corn – the type of starch is in a different conformation. But they all conform to the same standard chemical composition. It’s a mixture of amylose and amylopectin. So basically what you end up with after digestion is purely glucose.
I just quickly want to touch base on this topic. There is a lot of myths on starch that I had to double check to see if there was actually some truth to the matter. So my father is convinced that you can wash starch away after cooking rice, pasta and potatoes by washing it properly after cooking. You know till the water runs clear. He is convinced that starch is the thing in these foods that make you gain weight and by washing it away it’s healthy. I always found this a little ludicrous but I wanted to see if there is actually truth to this. So I turned to Google. Almost immediately I found two websites who followed my dad’s way of thinking. Here is the links — http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/remove-starch-potatoes-11537.html and http://www.ruchiskitchen.com/how-to-cook-starch-free-rice/ — If it’s in fact true I’m not entirely sure. If a research has been done I haven’t found it. Although I don’t really see the harm in rinsing off your potatoes, pasta and rice. Just rinse it with hot water otherwise you will make your food cold and no one really wants to eat cold food.
In this next part we’re going to discuss dietary fiber with the help of the course once again. It feels a bit weird because this chemistry part is really heavily featuring the course but I mean it is what is. I can’t really make it my own. It’s facts you know and I learned these facts from the course.
What is dietary fiber? Dietary fiber describes a chemically diverse group of non-digestible carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrates in our diet can be digested by the enzymes in the GI tract and can subsequently be absorbed into the bloodstream as monosaccharides. However, a portion of the carbohydrates present in foods cannot be broken down by the digestive enzymes and will reach the colon mostly intact.
There are a number of definitions of dietary fiber, but one of the more simple one’s is: Dietary fibers are dietary carbohydrates that are not subject to digestion by endogenous enzymes, but may be digested by bacteria in the colon. Dietary fiber is sometimes referred to as non-starch polysaccharides. However, this classification would exclude the lignins and resistant starch and is thus not fully correct. The most common classification separates dietary fiber into two main classes: the soluble or viscous fiber and the in-soluble or non-viscous fiber. There is another classification that distinguishes fiber between three categories: fiber naturally occurring in the food as consumed, fiber obtained from raw food material by physical, enzymatic or chemical means, and synthetic carbohydrate polymers. The reason for differentiating between fiber already present in the food, which is the first category, and fiber added to the food, which is the second and third category, is that the beneficial property of fibers naturally present in the food have been scientifically well-validated, whereas there are fewer data on potential health benefits of added fiber.
People are told to eat plenty of fiber as fiber supports proper function of the GI tract and prevents constipation, and in addition fiber has several other health benefits which we will discuss later in the course. Our daily fiber intake hovers around 20 grams in most Western countries but some people may not even reach 10 grams per day. Whereas intake of other people easily exceeds 40 grams per day.
And that concludes everything I wanted to share about the chemistry of carbohydrates. There is more information and explanation on this in the course, I mean the videos are really great but I feel like for everyday people this is enough. What I want to achieve in this post is to show how important carbohydrates are for your body. You can’t just cut it out and hope for the best. It’s your energy source and so much more. Without carbohydrates in your body…well let’s just say some things won’t go so smoothly. I will talk about it more in part two. I hope you found this ‘nutrition class’ slash lesson educational.
Thank you so much for reading. I wish you all the best and I will see you in a click!