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Carbohydrates

How Carbohydrates Contribute to a Healthy Carb Diet

Carbohydrates are the body's main staple as an energy source. While the National Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get at least half of their calories from carbohydrate-based food, the American Heart Associated stresses a limited sugar intake of 100 mg a day in the carb diet. Such differentiating statistics often causes confusion with the average person if they don't understand the main differences in carbohydrates. Therefore, we must understand the complexities of how carbohydrates work on a molecular level to know how to attain a proper carb diet that is essential for good health.

Carbohydrates

Types

Carbohydrates are categorized into three main food types that are distinguished as sugars, starches or fiber. As micronutrients, their most common forms are glucose, fructose and galactose. They are all formed from similar molecules called monomers. However, the monomers are built into small, medium and long chains that have a very different effect with how they are broken down and metabolized by the body. Furthermore, how they are digested is greatly impacted by fibrous food. The majority of carbohydrates are either monosaccharides which are made from one monomer, or disaccharides that are made of two.

Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are the simple sugars that are vital for nutrition. Fructose, glucose and galactose are monosaccharides. In nature, fructose is most abundant in nectar from fruits and honey, and vegetables. The body converts all carbohydrates to glucose, which is an energy source that it can readily use. Sugars in glucose form are also found in certain fruits and vegetables such as onions and beetroots.

Disaccharides

Disaccharides are formed when two of the monosaccharides are used to create a sugar. They are produced from combinations of glucose, galactose and fructose. These combinations create different types of sugars such as sucrose, lactose, and maltose. They are typically formed in processing. Lactose is a sugar that is present in milk. Maltose is a starch typically found in malt sugars, cereals, and barley. Sucrose is found in the common table sugar that is obtained from beetroot. Although disaccharides are a carbohydrate form of energy, they need to be more limited than monosaccharides. Because they are more complex, they can cause the blood sugar to rise quicker in people who are diabetic or cause issues in those who are lactose-intolerant.

Fiber

Fiber is also a carbohydrate such as the sugars and starches are, but it cannot be absorbed by the body. It has no impact towards the blood sugar in the body. However, it does still play a component in absorption. Its presence affects how quickly the body dissimulates carbohydrates, thus slowing down the time that it takes to hit the bloodstream. Examples of fibrous foods are the peel, stems, leaves and pulp of fruits and vegetables. It plays an important for diabetics with managing their blood sugar levels. For example, the pulp in fruit will slow down the rate of sugar absorption. However, juice that has the pulp removed will cause the blood sugar levels to quickly spike. That same rule applies to fiberless processed food such as pasta and table sugars.

Nutritional Science