I eat a high-carb diet, because I love good carbs, however we need to understand where good carbs come from.
We see these words on food labels: starches, fiber, sugar, sucrose, glucose, fruit sugar, fructose, mannitol, sorbitol? Well, they are all carbohydrates. But how are they connected?If you understand the basics, it will be easy. And I’m going to keep it very basic.Carbohydrates consist of:
1. Complex carbohydrates such as starches and fiber
2. Simple carbohydrates such as sugars
Many multi-syllabic words on food labels fit into these two categories.
Complex carbohydrates These are starches in breads, potatoes, rice, cereals, beans and pasta. These foods can be high or low in fiber, depending on refinement. Fiber passes through to the large intestine undigested where bacteria metabolize it. Excess creates gas. Complex carbohydrates are more likely to have nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than simple carbohydrates.
Simple Carbohydrates come in two forms:
1. Disaccharides (di = two, saccharides = sugar). Sucrose (glucose and fructose), lactose (glucose and galactose) and maltose (two glucose molecules). Sucrose is table sugar; lactose is the sugar in milk, and maltose is present in germinating grains (with yeast it changes to malt in beer). Don’t be scared of sugar. Sugar adds flavor and supplies energy. It’s just if you overdo it, you could take in too much energy and you know what that means – you gain weight. Sugar hides under many names on the food label such as sucrose, corn sweetener, invert sugar, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
2. Monosaccharides (mono = one, saccharides = sugar). Fructose, galactose and glucose. Fructose is fruit sugar, galactose comes from the breakdown of lactose, and glucose comes from the breakdown of all carbohydrates. The –ose at the end of the names will give you the clue that the substance is a sugar. You’ll sometimes see high-fructose corn syrup on food labels – it’s a cheaper form of sugar. Then there are also the sugar alcohols, which end with –ol, like xylitol (made from the monosaccharide xylose), sorbitol (an alcohol derivative from glucose) and mannitol (from fructose). Excess can remain unabsorbed in the intestine and cause diarrhea. If you chew a lot of gum with sorbitol, you may find your stools are loose. This is probably more than you need to know but you still need to know this. All carbohydrates are broken down to glucose. Glucose is the major monosaccharide in the body, also called dextrose or blood sugar. Glucose is used for energy, stored in the muscles or liver as glycogen, with excess stored as fat. Do vegetables and fruits contain starches or sugars? This is an interesting and logical phenomenon. Vegetables change from glucose to starch as they age so are sweetest when young. Fruits change from starches to sugars and become sweeter as they ripen. Starches and sugars supply the same amount of calories, four calories per gram, no matter the taste.
Functions of Carbohydrates:
➢ To supply energy
➢ To provide glucose to the brain and blood
➢ Add flavoring and sweetness to foods
➢ Spares protein so protein can be used to build muscle
➢ Prevents ketosis and fatigue
➢ Improves regularity (creating larger and softer stools)
I hope you understand the different forms of carbohydrates now, and how they fit into your diet.