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What are Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates make up part of a healthy and balanced diet and are one of the staple food groups. They are broken down by the body into usable, fast acting, simple sugars which give the body energy. Despite this fact carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient required by humans. Carbohydrates can be classified into two groups: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. So, what exactly is a carbohydrate? Read this article to learn more.

What are Carbohydrates?
A carbohydrate is an organic substance which is made up of a carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Carbohydrates can also be called saccharides and are the sugars and starches that are used by our body to produce energy. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are the sugars that are found in foods such as fruits and milk. These sugars include; glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, lactose and many more. These are classified as simple carbohydrates and will give the body a quick energy boost, but do not provide lasting energy over a period of time. Generally, it is recommended that these types of carbohydrates should be eaten in moderation. However, foods that contain these simple carbohydrates may still be a healthy choice due to the various other nutrients (minerals and vitamins) that they contain.

Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are starches that can be found in food sources such as grains and vegetables. These are the complex carbohydrates and are slow acting, meaning that they provide the body with sustained energy over a longer period of time. Complex carbohydrates should be part of a balanced diet and where possible it is best to consume unrefined sources, such as wholemeal bread, pasta and cereal. Complex carbohydrates should make up 55-75% of total energy intake, but less is acceptable because energy can be obtained from other sources such as fats and proteins.

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