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What are Carbohydrates? Must-know Facts About Carbohydrates

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Last updated date: 01st Mar 2024
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Learn About Carbohydrates and How They Help Our Body

Nutrients are substances that in their simplest form are absorbed by the blood to help an organism survive, grow and perform life-essential functions. We get nutrients from the food we consume. They are used by cells to create or nourish non-cellular structures such as our hair.


Carbohydrates are the nutrients that provide us with energy. Do you know what food contains Carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are found in foods such as pasta, bread, rotis, rice, etc. There are 5 main groups of nutrients - Proteins, Fats, Carbohydrates, Vitamins, and Minerals. In this article, we will be talking about carbohydrates and their importance.

Carbohydrates


Carbohydrates


What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are essentially sugar (sacarride) molecules chemically bound together. Once broken down most carbs are reduced to a simple sugar known as glucose. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the number of carbohydrates consumed but the quality of carbs consumed that matters. Thus, the source from which the body receives carbs is important. Healthy whole food such as grains are better and healthier sources of carbohydrates as compared to refined white bread, or chips.

Carbohydrates are important for our body as they provide us with energy to perform physical activities and various body funcion. Carbohydrates also help us grow. They are as important to us as fuel to vehicles.


Glucose 

It is one of the simplest forms of carbohydrates obtained when they are broken down. It can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream. The absorption of glucose into the bloodstream causes the brain to send a signal to the pancreas to release a chemical called insulin. This chemical helps glucose to enter the cells, where it is converted into a chemical compound called ATP to provide the body with energy.


Categories of Carbohydrates 

There are two broad categories of carbs - Sugars and Starches 

  • Sugars are simpler carbohydrates and are easy to break down. They consist of Monosaccharides (One simple sugar molecule) or Disaccharides (two simple sugar molecules chemically bound together) 

    • Sugars are most commonly found in sweet foods such as chocolates, juices, etc. Thus, sugars have a sweet taste.

    • They act as a direct source of energy.

  • Starches are complex carbohydrates that have to go through multiple steps to be broken down into absorbable forms. They consist of polysaccharides (multiple monosaccharides joined together).

    • Starches are more commonly found in grains, pasta, etc. Unlike sugars, they do not have a sweet taste even though they are made by multiple sugar molecules joining together. 

    • They often form the storage source of energy in the human body.

Complex vs Simple Carbs


Complex vs Simple Carbs 


5 Interesting Facts About Carbohydrates 

Here are some fun facts about carbohydrates for you to read and learn.

  • They are made up of a chemical combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Their base chemical formula is (CH2O)n  

  • Simple sugars that contain only 1 molecule are known as monosaccharides 

  • Polysaccharides include more than 2 monosaccharides joined together by chemical bonds.

  • Sugars are bound together by chemical bonds called glycosidic bonds 

  • Since basic sugars are easier to break down, when sugary food like chocolates are consumed they are digested faster. This causes us to feel hungry also faster. 

  • Since starches such as pasta, grains, etc are harder to break down, they take longer to be digested and make us feel fuller for longer. 

  • Aside from glucose, there exist two other very important monosaccharides. These are 

    • Fructose - broken down form of sugar found in fruits

    • Galactose - broken down form of sugar found in milk

  • Extra carbohydrates in the body are stored in the form of a polysaccharide called glycogen. 

  • The cell wall in plants is also made up of a complex carbohydrate called cellulose. Cellulose hardens the cell wall, making it impermeable. 

  • A simple carbohydrate (disaccharide) called Deoxyribose makes up an important part of DNA!

Summary

Carbohydrates are essential nutrients found in food that are broken down into glucose in the body to provide energy. The two broad categories of carbohydrates are sugars (simple carbs) and starches (complex carbs). Parents can encourage their children to learn more about carbohydrates by helping them identify food that are rich in carbohydrates from their daily meals. 

FAQs on What are Carbohydrates? Must-know Facts About Carbohydrates

1. Are carbs unhealthy? 

Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that the body needs to survive. They provide us with energy, but like any other thing, they can be harmful if eaten in very large quantities. Another thing one must consider when eating carbs is their source; whole foods like oats, grains, etc are better sources of carbs as compared to refined foods like white bread, chips, french fries, etc. Overall, carbohydrates are not unhealthy and are an important part of our diets. 

2. What are the end products of the digestion of carbohydrates in the human body?

The digestion of carbs begins in the mouth and ends in the small intestine. In the mouth, starch is broken down into a simpler sugar called maltose by salivary amylase present in the saliva secreted by salivary glands. In the small intestine, broken down carbohydrates are further broken down into three simple sugars based on the food source the carb was found in. These three sugars are -

  • Glucose - Starchy foods such as oats as well as sugary food. 

  • Fructose - Fruits

  • Galactose - Milk