Role of carbohydrates in diet

Carbohydrates are the food components that help most people in meeting their energy needs. Carbohydrates provide the body with easy energy required for its various activities such as oxidative metabolism. They also help in transporting vital micronutrients and photochemical elements. Dietary carbohydrate is essential for smoothened gastrointestinal integrity and functioning.

Another great advantage of carbohydrate is that unlike fat, excessive intake of carbohydrate does not lead to major health irregularities in the normal course.  Earlier, excess fat and carbohydrate were thought to be equally hazardous and fattening. But, later studies indicated that human body is not capable of storing excessive carbohydrate as fat. Instead, excess carbohydrate content tends to be oxidized.

An optimum diet is considered to be one in which more than half (at least 55%) of the total energy produced is contributed by dietary carbohydrate. The major advantage of such an optimum diet is that carbohydrates coming from different food sources leads to decreased fat accumulation in the body.

Increased intake of carbohydrate is more important for the elderly populations. Elderly individuals are increasingly facing health hazards due to both malnutrition and obesity. A diet rich in carbohydrate saves a person from all such irregularities. However, all alterations made in food intake patterns should be guided by taste perception, nature of the chronic disease and the kind of medication used. Studies regarding optimizing the intake of carbohydrate in order to minimize glucose intolerance of the body during old age are under progress.

Pregnant women and lactating mothers also are in need of increased energy and nutrients. Such needs of the body can be effectively met by the consumption of a wide variety of carbohydrate foods. It is advisable to meet the energy requirements of the pregnant body by increasing the intake of carbohydrate and minimizing the consumption of fat as excessive intake of fat during pregnancy might lead to obesity in the mother after delivery.

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