Carbohydrates and dietary fiber
How are carbohydrates digested?
Digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth. Amylase is an enzyme that helps break down the long chains of sugars into smaller chains. Amylase is also secreted by the pancreas into the small intestines. Once broken into 2-sugar units, enzymes called disaccharidases in the intestinal wall break the sugars into single units (i.e. - glucose, galactose, and fructose). These "simple" sugars can be absorbed through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream.
Where do the simple sugars go?
Glucose is ready to be delivered to the cells of the body to be converted into energy. Other simple sugars are mostly converted into glucose by the liver. Extra glucose can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.
What is glycogen?
Glycogen is the body's glucose storage molecule. Imagine that glycogen molecules are like apple trees. Apples can be added to the tree for storage and removed when the body is "hungry" for sugar. Without glycogen, you could not sleep through the night without eating because your body would use all the free-floating sugars in the bloodstream.
What is the major carbohydrate in milk?
Lactose. Lactose is made of a glucose and galactose molecule together (called a disaccharide). Lactose is broken down by enzymes (i.e., lactase) in the small intestinal wall. Glucose and galactose are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
What is lactose intolerance? Does my baby have it?
Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of lactase. Fortunately, significant lactase deficiency is extremely rare in infants. Infants born with severe lactose intolerance would not have survived before lactose-free products were invented in this century. As children age into adulthood, lactose intolerance becomes much more common. In some ethnic groups, nearly all adults have at least mild lactose intolerance.
What are starches?
Starches are the storage form of sugars in plants. They come in a variety of textures... dough-like, gels and syrups.
What is fiber?
Fiber is another plant component made of chains of sugars. Fiber is resistant to digestion in humans. Food bulking agents and roughage is made of fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can be partially digested by humans. It is then partially "digested" by the bacteria in the colon where additional nutrients can be provided to the body. See "Are Some Germs Good?" article.
What are the benefits of a high-fiber diet?
- Increases stool bulk
- May help prevent colon cancer, obesity, heart disease, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Speeds transit of stool though the intestines (decreasing constipation)
How much fiber should my child eat?
Children over 2 years of age should consume approximately (5 + the child's age) grams per day. Therefore a 5 year old should consume 10 grams of fiber per day.A guide to high fiber foods (Procter & Gamble)
Last Updated (Friday, 26 June 2009 02:29)