What are Carbohydrates (Carbs)

carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a major food source and a key form of energy for most organisms. carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy.

They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Macronutrients are required by the body in large amounts and are essential for the proper functioning of the body.

Macronutrients should be provided through diet as they cannot be produced within the body.

Types Of Carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates found in foods:-

  1. Monosaccharides are the simplest and smallest of carbohydrates. The blood sugar i.e. glucose is a monosaccharide. All carbohydrates eaten are digested down to glucose.
  2. Disaccharides are two monosaccharide molecules bonded together, for example, lactose( the milk sugar) maltose, and sucrose(table sugar).
  3. Polysaccharides are long chained monosaccharides. This chain can be branched or joined in a straight line. Glycogen and starches are polysaccharides of importance.

This classification of carbohydrates is based on their structure; carbohydrates are also classified as simple and complex carbohydrates based on their chemical nature and properties.

SIMPLE v/s COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex. The difference between the two forms is the chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested.

Monosaccharides and disaccharides are simple carbohydrates, and polysaccharides are complex.

Simple carbohydrates – are sugars and are made up of one or two molecules. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are classified as simple sugars. Simple carbohydrates-

  • are rapidly and easily digested, absorbed and metabolized in the body.
  • are generally high in glycemic index
  • Contain less or no fiber, as a result, they can make one feel hungry sooner.
  • Examples include white bread, sugars, colas, refined flour, and its products and candies.

Most of the processed products with added sugar fall under simple carbohydrates and are better limited or avoided in diet.

Complex carbohydrates – consist of long chains of sugar molecules. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates and are-

  • Packed with fiber as a result promotes satiety and keeps you full for longer.
  • healthier than simple carbohydrates.
  • low in glycemic index and can be consumed by people with diabetes.
  • Contain several nutrients especially micronutrients like vitamins and minerals
  • Examples include- fruits, vegetables, pulses, and wholemeal pasta

Carbohydrates are under scrutiny when it comes to healthy eating. Many diets recommend eliminating carbohydrates to improve health outcomes.

But carbohydrates are a major food group and nutrient that essential needs to be provided through diet in controlled amounts.

With this consensus, the type of carbohydrate that should be consumed was evaluated and carbohydrates were further divided into good carbs and bad carbs.

GOOD CARBS v/s BAD CARBS

The idea of labeling carbs as good carb and bad carbs originated when foods that are good for you (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) were identified from food that is bad for you (like soda, refined sugar and flour).

Carbohydrates that are generally classified as bad are those found in processed foods like white rice, white bread, and white flour.

These are generally simple carbohydrates and devoid of several nutrients but are high in calories and glycemic index

The good carbohydrates, on the other hand, are complex carbohydrates with several nutrients intact, moderate in calories and low in glycemic index.

The foods that fall under good carbohydrates include- whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes.

FUNCTIONS OF CARBOHYDRATES

The basic function of Carbohydrates is to provide energy. One gram of carbohydrate contains approximately 4 kilocalories (kcal).

It fuels the central nervous system and muscles to function efficiently. the brain needs carbohydrates, specifically glucose, because neurons cannot burn fat.

It has a great impact on brain functions like mood swings, memory, and concentration.

When enough carbohydrates are provided through diet, it prevents the breakdown of protein for energy. Thus, exerting a protein-sparing action and making protein available for cell formation, maintenance, and repair.

Fiber which is a part of complex carbohydrate, though not digested by the body, promotes satiety, adds bulk to the stools and is a source of nutrition for gut bacteria.

Fibers also have many proven health benefits like reducing cholesterol, improve blood sugar control, improves digestion and aids in weight loss.

We need carbohydrates for health and normal functioning of the body, but they must be the right kind of carbohydrate. Following a well-balanced diet with enough rest and physical activity can help you reach your goals without eliminating an entire group of nutrient.

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