In the world of nutrition, food is any material eaten to provide basic nutritional support to an organisms. Usually food is of animal, plant or even fungal source, and is usually rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, or minerals. Different food types are separated into various categories, based on their chemical composition, nutritional value and other factors.
One of the most important groups of foods to consider is the carbohydrates category. Carbohydrates, which includes glucose, galactose and lactose, are easily absorbed in the intestines and used by the body for energy production. These provide a steady stream of energy for the body, and are therefore used daily to maintain the body’s activity level and growth. However, carbohydrates are digested too slowly by the body, and are stored as fat. Other carbohydrates are much easier to digest, but still contain calories that add up to extra weight.
Carbohydrates also include the main group of nutrients that are stored as fat: proteins, which are required to create and repair tissues; vitamins; and minerals, which are needed to maintain a high level of health and an adequate supply of energy. Although both carbohydrates and proteins are made naturally by the body, excessive amounts of carbohydrates can damage and weaken the structures of the major organs. Proteins are used to build, repair and maintain tissue; however, they are also digested slowly, storing only small amounts of these nutrients as fat.
Plants are another source of these important nutrients, but many of the plants in the diet are highly processed before being consumed. Processed foods contain mostly fat and salt, with very little of the original nutrient remaining. Because vitamins and other nutrients are quickly broken down in fat, a person often needs to eat a large amount of fat to get the recommended daily intake of these important nutrients. Other nutrient loss from the food can occur during processing, including water, fiber and sugar.
When we talk about carbohydrates, they are made up of chains of glucose molecules. These chains are held together by an amino acid called glycine that is found in the roots, stems, leaves, roots and tubers. The two main types of carbohydrates are glucose and starch. The difference between these two is that starch is more tightly wrapped around the cell’s molecules while glucose is much more looser.
Starchy carbohydrates, including breads, cereals and pasta, contain two rings of sugar. The first ring is made up of a combination of glucose and galactose, and the second ring consists of amylose, disulphide singly or polysaccharides. Galactose combines with two molecules of glucose to form glucose, which is the primary source of fuel for all cells in our body. As mentioned earlier, the second ring is comprised of glycerol, which provides the energy needed to move carbohydrates through our bodies. The two sugars are separated when starch is broken down further into glucose.