Three Types of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates (carbs), fats and proteins are food substances that provide energy and are used by living organisms to survive and grow. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, secondary to fats and tertiary to protein. The three types of carbs include sugar, starches and fibers. Each of these carbs play an important role in your diet. However, some carbs are recommended in limited consumption. Let’s take a closer look at each one to better understand the role each one plays in your body and diet.
Have you ever heard that there are bad carbs and good carbs? Well this carb in particular has gotten a “bad” rep. This fast acting, simple carbohydrate can be broken into two types of sugars: those that are naturally-occurring sugars and those that are added sugars. Natural sugars can be found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugar in the form of sucrose can be found in processed foods like cookies, cakes, sodas and even canned fruits. A nutrition label includes the added and natural sugars found in the food it is describing. Sugar can be disguised as various names in the ingredients list but is most commonly identified by the ending “-ose.”
Just like sugar, fiber can also be divided into two types that are equally important to the body’s digestion: insoluble and soluble. Fiber is different than its simple and complex carb relatives as it is not broken down and digested. Soluble fibers absorb water which slows digestion whereas insoluble fibers add bulk to the stool and helps speed up the digestion process. Good sources of soluble fibers include some fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, oat bran and peas. Insoluble fibers can be found in whole grains cereals, breads and pastas, wheat bran and various vegetables. According to the American Diabetes Association, “people with diabetes should consume at least the recommended amount of fiber for the general population: about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.” Studies have also found a high-fiber diet can reduce conditions such as constipation and hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, gum disease and much more.
Made of lots of little sugars all linked together, some starches can be digested quicker than others dependent on their composition. This is why you must be aware of this slow acting or complex carbs affect on your blood sugar levels (especially for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic). Substantial sources of starches include: peas, corn, beans, potatoes and grains such as oats, barley and rice. Whole grain foods contain the bran, germ and endosperm which means you are consuming all of the nutrients the grain has to offer such as Vitamins B and E, minerals, fiber and starch. Contrarily, if you eat a refined grain, it only contains the endosperm which mostly contains the starch but little to no minerals or vitamins.
Did you know? They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen!
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC
Health Advisor | Email Casey