Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that our bodies need in relatively large amounts, the other two being protein and fat. Carbohydrates are a type of biomolecule made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, and they are an important source of energy for the body.
There are three main types of carbohydrates – simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.
- Simple carbohydrates are composed of one or two sugar molecules and are found in foods like fruits, honey, and table sugar.
- Complex carbohydrates are made up of many sugar molecules linked together and are found in foods such as bread, pasta, and rice.
- Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that the body can’t digest, but it plays an important role in maintaining digestive health.
When we eat carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into glucose, a simple sugar that can be used as a source of energy by our cells. Excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for future use.
Carbohydrates can be an important part of a healthy diet, but it’s important to choose complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains) over simple carbohydrates (such as refined sugar) for sustained energy and overall health.
Carbohydrates can be found in a variety of foods, including
- Grains This includes foods like bread, pasta, rice, oats, and barley. Whole grains are generally a healthier choice because they contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains.
- Fruits Most fruits are a good source of carbohydrates, as they contain natural sugars. Fruits also provide other important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Vegetables Many vegetables contain carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, corn, and peas. Vegetables are also a great source of other nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Legumes This includes beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas. Legumes are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and other nutrients.
- Dairy products Milk and yogurt contain carbohydrates in the form of lactose, a naturally occurring sugar. Some dairy products, such as ice cream and sweetened yogurt, may also contain added sugars.
- Sugars This includes table sugar, honey, maple syrup, and other sweeteners. These types of carbohydrates are often added to processed foods and beverages.
It’s important to choose carbohydrate sources wisely and aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Complex carbohydrates from whole foods are generally a healthier choice than simple carbohydrates from processed foods and added sugars.