Carbohydrates: Types and Function

Carbohydrates, the nature’s little miracle. They are energy vessels, essential for our cells, organs and tissues. Very abundant in nature, they exist in number of different forms. While a great variety may have carbohydrates appear daunting, they are very simple in structure. Nothing but three basic elements tied together by some molecular glue.

Carbohydrate is a macromolecule composed from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, in 2 to 1 ratio. Depending on complexity, carbohydrates come in two forms:

Simple Carbohydrates

a)     Monosaccharides

  • Single unit sugars: glucose (cell fuel), ribose, galactose, xylose and fructose.
  • They are the simplest carbohydrate units that cannot be broken down to smaller units
  • Blood sugar (glucose)

b)    Disaccharides

  • Disaccharides are made from two joined monosaccharide units, such as glucose and fructose
  • Can be broken down to monosaccharides by digestion
  • Table sugar (sucrose, made from glucose  and fructose), milk sugar (lactose, made from glucose and galactose)

Complex Carbohydrates

a)     Oligosaccharides

  • Oligosaccharides are made from three to ten monosaccharide units
  • Can be partially digested by body
  • Artichokes, burdock, chicory, leeks, onions, and asparagus (fructo-oligosaccharides made from 3+ fructose units), soy and soybeans (Galacto-oligosaccharides, made from 3+ galactose  units),  beans and legumes

b)    Polysaccharides

  • Polysaccharides are made from  more than ten monosaccharide units.
  • Potato, rice, wheat, and corn (starch, made from  glucose units), animals starch (glycogen, made from glucose residues)
  • Starch and glycogen can be broken down to monosaccharides by digestion
  • Cellulose that cannot be fully digested and is a good source of dietary fiber

Depending on how carbohydrates are processed prior to reaching consumers they are categorized into refined and unrefined. Unrefined carbohydrates, such as brown rice, beans, rye, whole wheat pasta, whole grains and oatmeal, have not been processed prior to reaching food market and contain naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Refined carbohydrates such as white flower, white rice, white sugar, white bread and regular pasta, have been processed prior to reaching consumer to remove all naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Unrefined carbohydrates, containing metabolism driving nutrients, make a better food choice are excellent source of dietary fibers that promote healthy digestion.

There is an easy way to tell simple carbohydrate food from complex. Simple carbohydrates taste sweet. Complex, do not. What tastes sweeter- a cookie or an apple? Easy choice and a fun party trick.  Try it.

For more information on carbohydrate rich meal ideas, visit Herbal Diet today.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • MySpace
  • Twitter
  • Add to favorites
  • Technorati

Leave a Reply