Main Functions of Carbohydrates

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The main function of carbohydrates is to fuel the entire body with energy, as carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and is the preferred fuel for brain function. Understand the importance of carbohydrates with information from a registered and licensed dietitian in this free video on healthy eating.

Part of the Video Series: Health & Nutrition
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Video Transcript

My name is Christine Marquette and I'm a registered and licensed dietitian with Marquette Nutrition and Fitness and I'm going to talk to you about the main functions of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are mainly used for fuel for the body. That means for our entire body. When carbohydrate is eaten and digested, it gets broken down into glucose which is a simple sugar. Glucose is the preferred source of fuel for our brain and it's really the only thing our brain likes to use to function. If we are on a very extremely low carbohydrate diet for an extended period of time and fat starts to be broken down, protein starts to be broken down, protein can be turned into glucose but that's now what it was intended for, that's not it's primary function. Protein is supposed to primarily be used for building muscles, to build hormones, various steroids in our body, so another function of carbohydrate when we are ingesting it adequately is it actually prevents the breakdown of protein, it helps prevent the breakdown or the loss of muscle because we do have that adequate source of fuel that our body can use therefore the protein doesn't need to be used for energy, it can be used for the job it was intended. Again, to build muscle and to be used to make hormones. Fat again kind of going back to that very low carbohydrate diet, if we don't have enough intake of carbohydrates so protein is beginning to be broken down and turned into glucose, fat has a very small percentage that can be used for glucose, less than about 3% can actually be turned into glucose, so in general it's thought of as fat cannot be used for glucose production because it is such a small percentage. So our brain really cannot use a lot of fat as fuel. Fat can be used as energy but primarily it's main purpose is to be used as insulation to cushion our joints, to protect our cells, to give them flexibility. So carbohydrate also helps prevent fat from being redirected from it's primary goal of protecting our joints and actually providing ourselves with flexibility. So carbohydrate again primarily is used for fuel, it also spares our protein from being used as fuel and it also spares our fat as being used as fuel. So carbohydrate actually has a few different functions in the body.

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