What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are essentially the primary energy source for the operation of the body. Carbohydrates are commonly referred to as carbs which are nothing but a consolidation of sugar molecules. They are a combination of Sugars, Starches, and Fibre found in dairy products and plant foods. Our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose which is the main source of energy for the body, muscles and brains.
The main macronutrients that operate the body are Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. Among those macronutrients, carbohydrates are required very large in number.
The major function of Carbohydrates in the human body are Energy storage, Energy production, form of macronutrients, aiding in lipid production and saving proteins.
Types of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are classified into two types namely Simple Carbohydrates and Complex carbohydrates.
Simple Carbohydrates are easily broken by the body to be used as an active source of Energy. Simple carbohydrates are nothing but sugar. Simple carbohydrates are more commonly seen in milk, fruits and vegetables. They can also be seen in refined sugars such as sugar, candy, syrups, etc.
It is very easy for the body to digest simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates consist of two molecules. A person who intakes simple carb food often experiences hunger during the day.
Some of the common simple carbs include:
- Raw sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
In general, Complex carbohydrates, which are often addressed as Complex carbs, have more nutrient content than simple carbohydrates. It also has high fibre content, and digestion takes very slow.
Complex carbohydrates consist of two essential components namely fibre and starch. Complex carbohydrates guarantee long-term health. They help in maintaining a healthy diet and guard against diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Some of the important fibre -rich foods are:
- Whole grains
Some of the important starch-rich foods are:
Classification of Carbohydrates
Monosaccharides are the basic form of carbohydrates and also the simplest form of sugar. Glucose, fructose and galactose are the three forms of Monosaccharides.
Glucose – Supreme energy source for the body
Galactose – Available in milk and dairy products
Fructose – Mostly present in fruits and vegetables
Disaccharides are a combination of two sugar molecules. Lactose and sucrose are the two forms of Disaccharides.
Lactose – It is more often seen in milk and milk products.
Sucrose – A combination of Glucose and Fructose, also known as Table sugar.
- Oligosaccharides are formed by the combination of two or more monosaccharides joined together by O- glycosidic bonds.
- Oligosaccharides comprise of small quantities of Monosaccharides.
- Oligosaccharides are made by breaking down complex carbohydrates.
- Most variants of Oligosaccharides are found in plants.
- Common examples of Oligosaccharides include Sucrose, lactose and maltose.
- Polysaccharides are a group of chains that consists of Sugar.
- Polysaccharides are like food stores for both plants and animals.
- Polysaccharides comprise glycogen, starch and Cellulose.
Starch is a combination of Polymeric carbon dioxide which consists of glucose units formed by glycosidic bonds. Starch is a polysaccharide that is used to store energy and is produced by green plants.
Starch is one of the indispensable energy sources in the human body. Starch is a tasty, fluffy powder and is generally insoluble in water.
Some of the common examples of starch are:
- Dried beans
Good carbs vs Bad carbs
In general, good carbs are fruits, vegetables and legumes. Good carbs have nutrients at enormous levels. The important characteristics of good carbs are low in sodium and saturated fats. Some of the important foods with good carbs are:
Grains are nothing but the seeds of grass-like plants called cereals. Some of the common examples of whole grains are rice, wheat and corn. Whole grains are classified into three parts namely bran, Endosperm and Germ where bran is the hard and outer shell, the endosperm is the center layer of the grain and germ is the inner layer that consists of vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Some of the common varieties of whole grains are millet, brown rice, wild rice, wheat berry, barley and sorghum.
Beans are leguminous plants that consist of Pod-borne seeds. Beans are a carbon-rich food material that also consists of a substantial amount of zinc, manganese, selenium, and vitamin B1, B6, E and K.
The high protein and fibre content present in beans helps in weight loss. Beans are highly nutritious and are often recommended to newborn babies.
It is well-known conventional wisdom that vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. In general, vegetables are compatible with various dishes such as salads, soups, sandwiches, etc.
Some of the high carbohydrates rich vegetables are:
- Sweet Potato
- Butternut Squash
- Red pepper
- Navy beans
Fruits are highly nutritious, delicious and fruitful substances to add to your diet. Each fruit is bestowed with its own set of nutrients and vitamin content. Most fruits are high in sugar and carbs.
Dried fruits and raisins are carbohydrates dense and rich fruits. Some of the high carbs fruits are grapes, pineapples, mangoes, apples and figs. Banana has the highest amount of Carbohydrates content with a rate of 26.95 percent. Among all those fruits, watermelon, peaches, blueberries and strawberries are considered to be low carbohydrates fruits.
Sugar is nothing but a simple form of carbohydrates that are mostly used in foods. Simple sugars are also called Monosaccharides and include fructose, glucose and galactose.
Sugar is a fast-acting carbohydrate. There are essentially two main types of carbohydrates:
- Naturally occurring sugars that are present in milk and fruit.
- Sugar that is added during the processing such as fruit canned in heavy syrup.
There are different names for sugar, such as table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, beat sugar, etc. Sugar present in milk is often addressed as lactose and fruit sugar is addressed to as Fructose.
Refined “white” sugars
Refined white sugar has 99.9% of sucrose content. It is refined and washed multiple times to bring the appearance of white colour. Through this process, it has no molasses favour.
Most of the households prefer white sugars to other types of sugar. These types of sugars are used as a major source of ingredients for various processed foods and beverages.
Importance of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide ample energy to the body and a good combination of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Carbohydrates are also called vital fuel sources for the body. Our body uses glucose from carbohydrates as the optimal source of energy.
Low consumption of diets leads to depression and mental health problems. Brain chemicals like serotonin and tryptophan, which regulate the feeling of well-being, are stirred by carbohydrates. Carbohydrates fuel brain activity.
The insufficient intake of carbohydrates results in mood changes, fatigue and depression problems. Tryptophan, a non-essential amino acid that tends to improve the mood of a person.
When you intake high content of carbohydrates, your body automatically releases a hormone called Serotonin, a feel-good hormone that recovers you from depression.
Carbohydrates act as an energy manufacturer in the human body. Carbohydrates play an important function in your body. The main source known as glucose is converted into energy that is vital for the functioning of the brain and the muscles.
Increase in Muscle mass
Carbohydrates are very important for building muscle because they are protein-sparing. Adding carbohydrates to the protein in your diet maximises protein synthesis. Carbohydrates fuel your muscles by converting glycogen which is a form of energy to store fats.
Low carb diets are widely preferred for weight loss. Reducing carbs in your diet lowers your appetite and leads to automatic weight loss. People who prefer a low-carb diet experience a sense of satisfaction, fullness, etc.
Carbohydrates are not bad for the heart. If you choose a variety of whole and processed carbohydrates, then it would be a good agent to support your heart function. The quantity and the number of carbohydrates you intake every day make a significant change in your body regulation.
Foods that have a high amount of sugar naturally raise your triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are an important factor in the metabolic growth of your body.
Nutrition label to track carbohydrates
The nutrition label tracks good carbs from bad carbs. This helps you to isolate your diet based on good and bad carbs.
To track the total amount of carbohydrates, present in the food, make sure to count the total carbohydrates present in the food. You need to count all the grams of “fibre ”, grams of “sugar” and grams of other “Carbohydrates” to sum up the number of Total carbohydrates present in the food.
Whole grains are the best source of fibre , potassium, selenium and manganese. Always make sure to choose processed whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa and whole wheat pasta.
Some of the high carb and fibre rich fruits are apples, berries, and bananas. Make sure to avoid canned fruits since it contains added fruit syrups.
Potatoes and beans
In general, beans and potatoes consist of fibre, iron, folate and potassium. Potatoes are relatively high in carbohydrates. One potato may result in 34.8 grams of carbohydrates.
Without petrol, Engines cannot produce energy to move vehicles. Likewise, without adequate carbohydrates, the body gets no energy to function. When you are deficient in carbohydrates, your body stores carbohydrates in the area of muscles and liver when you are not getting adequate carbohydrates in your diet.
Carbohydrates help in the performance of several key functions in your body. They act as a primary fuel source of energy for the operation of the body. They aid in the development of the neurological activity of your brain. Carbohydrates along with fibre help to maintain a good digestive system and lower the risk of heart diseases and diabetes from the body.
1. What are the 3 types of carbohydrates?
Sugar, Starch, and Fibre are three main types of carbohydrates.
2. Is Rice a carbohydrate?
Yes, Rice is a carbohydrate. It is said that one cup of rice contains 52 grams of carbohydrates.
3. Is sugar a carbohydrate?
Yes, Sugar is a soluble form of carbohydrates. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that contains glucose, galactose and fructose.
4. What are good carbohydrates?
Vegetables, fruits, rice and grains are some good sources of carbohydrates.
5. Do carbs make you fat?
Carbohydrates do not make you fat. Fat is due to the consumption of over calories.
6. Are carbohydrates cholesterol?
Simple carbohydrates do not lead to the production of cholesterol in the body. However, processed carbohydrates may increase body cholesterol levels.
7. How much carbs do I need a day?
In general, a normal human being is recommended to have 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day.
8. Why do children need carbohydrates?
Since Carbohydrates are simple sugars, the human brain uses that as a primary source of energy. This is indeed a vital factor for the children to stay alert and active throughout the day.
9. Do eggs have carbs?
10. Does cheese have carbs?
Cheese does contain carbohydrates due to the presence of natural sugar called lactose. However, there is certain cheese like cheddar and provolone that contains zero carbs.