Carbohydrates are biomolecules made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The carbohydrate compound is found in several things. Carbohydrates are one of the compounds that are found in abundance. Carbohydrates are a part of all living things, be it plants or animals. When consumed carbohydrates turn into fuel and provide energy to the body.
There are different types of carbohydrates and the rate at which they are digested by the body and give energy varies. There are some which instantly provide a boost in energy by raising the sugar level in the body. Carbohydrates cab be classified generally into five major groups which are monosaccharide, disaccharide, polysaccharide, oligosaccharide and nucleotides. The word saccharide basically means sugar. These five categories are further extended with more examples of carbohydrates.
As the word suggest, these type of carbohydrates are called simple sugars because they cannot be broken down any more. This is the most basic form of carbohydrate. Monosaccharides are crystalline solids that are usually water soluble and without any color. Glucose, galactose, fructose or laevulose, dextrose (glucose which is produced by corn), ribose and xylose are all monosaccharides. Glucose, galactose and fructose are the more common ones among others.
Glucose is where the energy for the body comes from. This type of sugar is broken down in the body to work as a fuel for the body. Glucose is an essential source of energy for the body to keep all its functions running smoothly and properly. The appropriate and balanced glucose levels in the blood stream is extremely vital for a healthy body.
Galactose is also a monosaccharide which is quite similar to glucose but differs slightly in its structure. When glucose and galactose combine together they form lactose which is found in milk. When galactose is absorbed in the body it converts into glucose and gives energy to the body.
Fructose has a different structure than glucose but is basically the same thing. Fructose converts into glucose when it is absorbed by the body, liver is responsible for this conversion. This monosaccharide fructose is found in large amounts in fruits, high fructose corn syrup and also in honey.
When two monosaccharides combine together they form disaccharides. Disaccharides are double sugars found commonly in regular table sugar, cane sugar, and sugar beets. Table sugar is a disaccharide which is formed when a molecule of glucose combines with a molecule of fructose through an alpha glycosidic bond. This is disaccharide is called Sucrose. The energy is released from disaccharides when they break down in the form of simple sugars that is monosaccharides.
Lactose which is milk sugar and found in milk is also a disaccharide. Lactose is formed through the glycosidic bond (bond between two sugars) of the monosaccharide glucose and galactose. The sugar bond in lactose is called beta glycosidic bond between two sugars. Beta glycosidic bond is responsible for the cramping, bloating and allergic reactions in people who are lactose intolerant. Beta glycosidic bond is difficult for some people to digest which creates the problem.
Maltose is another example of disaccharide which is formed by alpha glycosidic bond. Maltose is used in making alcohol.
Polysaccharides consists of multiple simple sugars joined together. These carbohydrates vary in the structure length and can have more than three thousand units joined together in a single polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are called complex carbohydrates. They are responsible for storing large quantities of simple sugars or glucose. Starches are a common example of polysaccharides.
Starch is a long chain of glucose combined together through alpha glycosidic bond. Starch which is a complex carb can be found in potatoes, rice, beans, pasta and also in baked goods like bread, croissants, cakes and pies. Cellulose and chitin are also polysaccharides.
Fiber is found in many foods and can be both soluble and insoluble. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes are all rich sources of fiber. Fiber is not broken down in the body as readily as other carbohydrates. Therefore, it does not increase the blood sugar levels and is deemed healthy for people suffering from diabetes.
Carbs with more than two sugars but anywhere between three to ten are known as oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides provide a lot of nutrition to the body. It is commonly found in beans and legumes. They are combined together through a unique bond which is not broken into simpler form in the small intestine.
Sugars are also found in nucleotides like DNA and RNA.
Choose Your Carbohydrates Carefully
Our body needs all the compounds to function properly but in a balanced amount. A variety of nutrients are required by the body. Therefore including carbohydrates in your meal is also important for a healthy and a balanced diet plan. But choosing the right and good carbohydrates over bad carbs is vital. A more general classification of carbohydrates is based on the rate at which they are absorbed by the body. They are separated into two groups; fast carbs and slow carbs.
How are fast carbs different from slow carbs? Fast carbs are carbohydrates that immediately spike the sugar level in the blood stream. Fast carbs are considered an unhealthy option for people who need to control or keep their blood glucose levels in check. Prediabetic and people with type 2 diabetes should avoid foods that are included in the list of fast carbs. Foods like bread, pasta, carbonated sweet drinks, sugar, cereals, all kinds of baked items, candies and processed foods are all fast carbs that instantly increase the glucose levels in the blood stream.
On the other hand slow carbs are carbohydrates that are not broken down in the small intestine therefore sugar is not absorbed as readily in the blood stream. Dietary fiber is a good example of slow carbs. Fiber are actually good for people with diabetes and should be included in significant amounts in their diet plans.
Carbohydrates are also important for the body therefore eliminating them altogether is never a good option. Some people are even scared to hear the name carbs because they are afraid that it will increase their weight and focus solely on a diet that is rich in proteins.
If a person is looking to reduce weight or wants to avoid carbs for other reasons, they should consider focusing on including carbohydrates that are beneficial and aid in weight loss rather than just eliminating them all together from their diet. Carbohydrates are a source of a lot of nutrients and should not be ignored.
Maintaining a healthy diet is not difficult if you are well aware of the nutritional value of the foods hat you eat. Avoiding all processed foods is the number one step towards a better and healthier life. Cooking food yourself makes it easier to control the ingredients and is also an excellent way to avoid all the preservatives found in packed goods.
Using whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains can help you have a balanced meal. The next important thing while adopting a healthier lifestyle is to portion everything out. There is a specific amount of everything that our bodies require daily. Following the portion size is crucial.
Having a square meal with protein, carbohydrates and other essential nutrient is important. Lastly, carbs are not bad and will not have any adverse effects if you keep your body moving which keeps the sugar levels down.