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Carbohydrates Overview

Carbohydrates are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen-containing chemical molecules. Carbohydrates are composed mostly of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that can have a simple or complicated structural shape. Carbs are classified into two types: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Whether simple or complex, a carbohydrate contains four calories per gram and is metabolized by the body to make glucose. [1]

Carbohydrates: Pros, Cons and Suggested Doses

A carbohydrate is classified as either a monosaccharide, a disaccharide, or a polysaccharide based on the number of sugar units it contains. [2]

The primary distinction between simple and complex carbohydrates is that simple carbohydrates contain monosaccharides and disaccharides. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are made up of several single sugar molecules linked together in chains. Sugars are categorized as simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates are made up of starches and fiber.

Carbohydrates are one of the food groups that are vital to a well-balanced diet. They're sometimes referred to as “energy foods.” Though many people believe that they are foods that promote weight gain, they are nevertheless highly important in healthy living. Carbohydrates' principal role is to produce energy. They supply the energy required by the brain and neurological system. They also aid in muscle contraction, which allows us to move and stimulate our organs so that carbohydrates function at their best. [3]

Sources of Carbohydrates

Given the importance of carbs in human and animal nutrition, nature has created this class of carbohydrates foods as the most plentiful in organic compounds of all food classes by design. Except for milk, which is the only animal-based product containing a considerable carbohydrate amount, carbohydrates are virtually entirely derived from plants, vegetables, and grains. Carbohydrates from unprocessed whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits are the best sources. Sodas, pastries, white bread, and highly processed foods are also high in carbs. [4]

Carbohydrate-rich foods include:

  • Grains: bread, pasta, noodles, cereals, crackers, and rice.
  • Fruits: Apples, berries, bananas, oranges, mangoes, and melons.
  • Legumes: Dried beans, peas, and lentils.
  • Dairy items: yogurt and milk.
  • Cakes, cookies, sweets, candy, and others.
  • Starchy vegetables: Corn and potatoes
  • Sugary juices: fruit drinks, ordinary sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks
    Meat, fish, poultry, various types of cheese, nuts, and oils are examples of low-carbohydrate foods.

Benefits of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in your body. After absorbing carbs, the body converts them into simple sugars, which are then converted into glucose. [5]

The body obtains energy, and the liver and muscles store it in the form of glycogen. It also aids in the protection of muscle tissue. When the body receives an adequate amount of carbs, muscular tissue is not easily harmed. [6]

Carbohydrates are also beneficial to digestion. They include dietary fiber, which assists digestion by passing food quickly through your intestines. Dietary fiber is found in carbohydrates such as bananas, whole grains, and oats. They keep you full and reduce your chances of overeating, which aids in weight management.

When you don't get enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body might store extra carbohydrates in your muscles and liver for later use. Headaches, exhaustion, weakness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation, foul breath, and vitamin and mineral shortages can all result from a low carbohydrate diet. [7]

Potential Side Effects of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate overconsumption involves consuming extra calories. Extra calories are not utilized by the body and are deposited as fat, potentially leading to obesity. A high intake of carbohydrates in the body raises blood glucose levels, which is unhealthy. To avoid such undesirable consequences, limit your intake. Type 2 diabetes might occur if your blood glucose levels remain high for an extended period of time. Diabetes can have an impact on the body's heart, nerves, and kidneys. Also, below is some useful advice:

  • Try to limit your intake of foods with a lot of added sugar. These foods may be high in calories yet low in nutrients. Eating too much added sugar elevates blood sugar and can cause weight gain. Looking at the Nutrition Facts label on the back of a food package will tell you if it contains added sugars. It indicates the amount of total sugar and added sugar in a particular dish or drink.
  • Refined grains are foods in which some of the grains have been removed. This also removes several nutrients that are beneficial to your health.

There is no one-size-fits-all carbohydrate amount that people should consume. This amount can vary based on age, gender, health, and whether you're trying to lose or gain weight. Every day, adults should consume about sixty percent of their calories from carbohydrates. According to Nutrition Facts labels on products, the Daily Value for total carbs is 275 g per day. The 2,000 value diet is optimum. Depending on your calorie needs and overall health, your Daily Value may be higher or lower. [8]

According to the US Department of Agriculture, you should take at least the recommended daily amount (RDA) of carbs, which is 130 grams for adults, 175 grams for pregnant women, and 210 grams for lactating women. Women should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should consume 38 grams per day, according to DGA.

Consume complex carbohydrates 45 minutes before a workout to ensure optimum muscle glycogen to aid exercise performance. Simple carbohydrates should be consumed during an exercise to keep glycogen levels in check.

Carbohydrates Supplements

Carbohydrates can be obtained from pre-workout supplements, post-workout supplements, and intra-workout supplements. Sports drinks, protein shakes, and weight gainers all include a suitable amount of carbohydrates. [9]

Carbohydrates FAQ's

Q: What are examples of carbohydrates?

A: Carbohydrates are sourced from a variety of meals, including bread, popcorn, beans, milk, potatoes, spaghetti, cookies, maize, soft drinks, and pies. They are also found in a range of shapes and sizes. Sugars, fibers, and starches are common types.

Q: Are carbohydrates sugar?

A: Carbohydrates are sugars that are classified into two types: simple and complex. The distinction between simple and complex carbohydrates lies in how rapidly they are digested and absorbed – as well as their chemical composition. [10]

Q: What is the main function of carbohydrates?

A: Carbohydrates, along with fat and protein, are one of the three macronutrients in our diet, with their primary role being to supply energy to the body. [11]

Q: What are the building blocks of carbohydrates?

A: Monosaccharides are solitary sugar molecules that serve as the carbohydrates building blocks for all other sugars and carbs. These include glucose, fructose, and galactose. [12]

Q: What elements are in carbohydrates?

A: Carbohydrates are made up of only hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms and have the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n, at least until oxidation or reduction occurs. Carbohydrate derivatives are compounds formed from carbohydrates by substitution, etc., and may contain additional components.

Q: What is the polymer of carbohydrates?

A: Natural carbohydrate polymers include cellulose, starch, dextrins and cyclodextrins, chitin and chitosan, hyaluronic acid, and different gums (carrageenan, xanthan, etc.).

Q: How many calories are in 1 gram of carbohydrates?

A: Each gram of carbs and protein contains four calories. A gram of fat contains nine calories. A calorie, like a teaspoon or an inch, is a unit of measurement. Calories are the units of energy released by your body when it digests and absorbs food. [15]

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[1] 3.4: The Functions of Carbohydrates in the Body
[3] What Makes You Fat: Too Many Calories, or the Wrong Carbohydrates?:
[4] Carbohydrates:
[5] Carbohydrates 101: The benefits of carbohydrates:
[6] Carbohydrates:
[7] What happens if I don’t get enough carbohydrates?:
[8] Carbohydrates:
[9] Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1782-1808. Published 2014 Apr 29. doi:10.3390/nu6051782
[10] Simple vs Complex Carbs:
[11] The Functions of Carbohydrates in the Body:,whole%20grains%2C%20fruit%20and%20vegetables.
[12] What are carbohydrates and sugar?: