Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. They are the sugars, starches, and dietary fiber that occur in plant foods and dairy products.
Carbohydrates are mainly found in plant foods. They also occur in dairy products in the form of a milk sugar called lactose. Foods high in carbohydrates include bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, rice, and cereals.
Carbohydrates play several roles in living organisms, including providing energy.
Byproducts of carbohydrates are involved in the immune system, the development of disease, blood clotting, and reproduction.
This article looks at types of carbohydrates, nutrition, and their effects on health. We also look at the relationship between carbohydrates and diabetes.
What are Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates, also known as saccharides or carbs, provide energy for the body. Each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
The body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, which is the primary energy source for the brain and muscles.
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients, which are nutrients that the body needs in larger amounts.
The other macronutrients are protein and fats. Proteins provide 4 calories per gram, and fats provide 9 calories per gram.
People consume between 45-65% of their total calories in the form of carbohydrates per day. However, carbohydrate needs depend on many factors, including body size, activity levels, and blood sugar control.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that people get 275g of carbohydrate each day in a 2,000-calorie diet. This includes dietary fiber, total sugars, and added sugars, which are listed on food labels.
Carbohydrates in foods occur in various forms, including the following:
- Dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot easily digest. It occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
- Total sugars, which include sugars that occur naturally in foods, such as dairy products, as well as added sugars, which are common in baked goods, sweets, and desserts. The body very easily digests and absorbs sugars.
- Sugar alcohols, a type of carbohydrate that the body does not fully absorb. They have a sweet taste and fewer calories than sugar. Sugar alcohols are added to foods as reduced-calorie sweeteners, such as in chewing gum, baked goods, and sweets.
Carbohydrate vs High Sugar Level
A glycemic index known as (GI) ranks how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels on a scale of 0 to 100.
Foods with a high GI cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Foods with a low GI take longer for the body to digest, leading to more balanced blood sugar levels.
Eating lots of foods with a high GI may increase a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes and other health concerns, including heart disease and overweight.
A diet with plenty of low GI foods, together with exercise and regular sleep, can help a person maintain health and a moderate weight.
Low GI Diet
One factor that increases the GI score of a food is the milling and grinding process, which often leaves no more than the starchy endosperm, or the inner part, of the seed or grain. This is mainly starch.
This process also eliminates other nutrients, such as minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibers.
To follow a low GI diet, a person can eat more unrefined foods, such as:
- oats, barley, or bran
- whole-grain bread
- brown rice
- plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- fresh, whole fruit instead of juice
- whole-grain pasta
- salads and raw vegetables