Carbs, short for carbohydrates, are a source of energy for your body. They are made up of three elements: hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon atoms. There are 3 types of carbohydrates: fibers, starches, and sugars.
According to the American Diabetes Association, “on the nutrition label, the term ‘total carbohydrate’ includes all three types of carbohydrates. This is the number you should pay attention to if you are carbohydrate counting.” (1)
45% – 65% of the calories we consume each day should be carbohydrates – according to the Food and Nutrition Board.
There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are called monosaccharides and disaccharides. Complex carbohydrates are called Polysaccharides. Let’s look at the differences between simple and complex carbs.
Glucose, galactose, and fructose are monosaccharides. They are the simplest form of sugar.
You may have heard the names glucose and fructose – both simple sugars.
Glucose is also known as blood sugar.
Fructose is “fruit sugar”.
Golactos is found in yogurt.
When monosaccharides combine they create disaccharides. Three examples of disaccharides are sucrose, maltose, and lactose.
Sucrose is created by combining glucose and fructose. You will find sucrose in table sugar. It is also naturally occurring in small amounts in some vegetables and fruits.
Maltose is created by combining one glucose with another glucose. When starch breaks down maltose is created.
Lactose is created by combining galactose and glucose. This is perhaps the most well-known of the three disaccharides – you hear of people who are lactose intolerant. Lactose is found in milk products.
You may have noticed that lactose, maltose, and sucrose all contain glucose.
NOW YOU KNOW:
- Sugar free doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is free of simple carbohydrates.
- In the US, sucrose is labeled as sugar.
- Too many simple carbohydrates may lead to health problems.
Complex Carbohydrates – Polysaccharides
Complex Carbohydrates or polysaccharides include glycogen, starch, and fiber (both soluble and insoluble).
Glycogen: This polysaccharide is created in animals and is stored in their liver and muscle.
Starch: Starch is created in plants. Foods with high amounts of starch include white rice, potatoes, pastas, and white breads.
Fiber: Fibers are usually not digestible. Dietary fiber is made up of several carbohydrates (pectins, gums, cellulose, etc.). You’ll obtain fiber from the foods you eat. Good sources of fiber include: peas, beans, nuts, seeds, and quinoa.