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Carbohydrates[edit | edit source]

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Carbohydrates represent one of the primary dietary components responsible for providing energy to the body. They come in various forms such as starches, which, when absorbed and processed, transform into glucose or fructose. This essential nutritional category encompasses sugars, starches, and fiber.

Types of Carbohydrates[edit | edit source]


Simple Carbohydrates[edit | edit source]

Simple carbohydrates are typically composed of one (single) or two (double) sugars. These include:

  • Single Sugars (Monosaccharides):
    • Glucose
    • Fructose (found in fruits)
    • Galactose (found in milk products)
  • Double Sugars (Disaccharides):
    • Lactose (found in dairy)
    • Maltose (found in certain vegetables and in beer)
    • Sucrose (table sugar)
    • Honey (contains vitamins and minerals, but should not be given to children under 1 year)

Complex Carbohydrates[edit | edit source]

Also referred to as "starchy" foods, complex carbohydrates include:

  • Legumes
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Whole-grain breads and cereals

Glycemic Index of Carbohydrates[edit | edit source]

Understanding the glycemic index of foods is pivotal in grasping the role of carbohydrates. High glycemic carbohydrates can induce a sugar rush and sugar crash, subsequently leading to complications like insulin resistance and weight gain.

Energy Source[edit | edit source]

Carbohydrates primarily function to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. The enzyme amylase aids in breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, which serves as the body's primary energy source.

Sources of Carbohydrates[edit | edit source]

Natural sources rich in simple carbohydrates with inherent vitamins and minerals include:

  • Fruits
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Vegetables

Processed or refined sources of simple carbohydrates, often referred to as "empty calories" due to their lack of essential nutrients, comprise:

  • Candy
  • Regular carbonated beverages (like sodas)
  • Syrups
  • Sweets
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Refined flour

Table Sugar and Processed Sugars[edit | edit source]

While refined sugars contribute calories, they lack essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Many processed foods, including white flour, sugar, and white rice, lack B vitamins and other crucial nutrients unless labeled as "enriched." Consuming carbohydrates from natural sources, like fruits, is healthier than intake from processed sugars.

Effect of Carbohydrate Overconsumption[edit | edit source]

Excessive intake of high glycemic carbohydrates can lead to a surge in total calorie consumption, potentially leading to obesity. Conversely, a lack of carbohydrate intake might result in calorie deficiency or an excessive consumption of fats to compensate for the deficit.

Carbohydrate Recommendations[edit | edit source]

For optimal health, individuals should derive between 40% and 60% of their total calorie intake from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates. It's advisable to restrict the intake of processed sugars, which offer limited nutritional value.

See also[edit | edit source]

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Carbohydrates Resources
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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD