Nutrition: Carbohydrates Chapter 3

Cell Food


Food for Cells

Carbohydrates provide a vital, readily available source of energy for the cells of the body and brain. Once metabolized by enzymes in the digestive system, most carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, permeate the intestinal wall, and then course through the blood stream to deliver a caloric payload to the body’s cells. Excess carbohydrate molecules can be stored, available as cell food on demand. READ MORE

The Liver Delivers

Like a car battery ready to be turned over, the liver is a stockpile of potential energy. When glucose, the main source of fuel for our cells, isn’t used immediately, it’s stored in the liver as glycogen. As the body calls for energy reserves, the liver breaks down the glycogen and releases glucose into the bloodstream. Glycogen is also stored in muscles, and in limited amounts within the kidneys and intestines. LESS


Calorie Co-Providers

Carbohydrates are the primary suppliers of cell food, or calories, but not the sole providers. Proteins and fats are energy sources as well. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, 4 calories again per gram of protein, and 9 calories per gram of fat. This explains why the calories lost by eliminating carbohydrates in low-carb diets can be offset by ingesting more proteins and/or fats. READ MORE

All three calorie sources are digested and broken down in the intestine, but each follows its own pathway out and is uniquely metabolized. Carbohydrates can be utilized once broken down into sugar; proteins into amino acids; and fats into fatty acids and glycerol, a so-called “sugar alcohol” or polyol. LESS


Insulin: Opening Cells to Glucose

The hormone insulin is critical in the delivery of glucose to the cells, essentially providing a pathway for the sugar through the cell wall. In a healthy body, insulin is always in harmonic counterbalance to glucose: Too little insulin is associated with too much blood sugar, and too much insulin with too little blood sugar. READ MORE

Though the body can withstand incredibly long stretches without food, blood sugar has to remain in balance within a reasonable margin. The conditions resulting from too little glucose (hypoglycemia) or too much glucose (hyperglycemia) can indicate chronic conditions and even trigger life-threatening events.

Learn more about the insulin / blood-sugar balance and about diabetes here.

Yoga photo courtesy of lululemon athletica LESS


The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.