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Carbohydrates: Structure, Types, Functions, Deficiency Symptoms and Natural Sources

Updated on April 23, 2017

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are biological molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are sugars, starches and fibers found in a wide array of foods like grains, vegetables and dairy products.

Potatoes Are Rich in Carbohydrates

Source

Structure of Carbohydrates

The general empirical structure of carbohydrates is (CH2O)n. Their structure determines how energy is stored in bonds during photosynthesis and how breaking these bonds releases energy.

Glucose Structure

Glucose is a carbohydrate.
Glucose is a carbohydrate. | Source

Types of Carbohydrates

There are three types of carbohydrates. They are: starch, sugar and fiber.

Starch

Starch is a white substance found in plant tissues. It is an important constituent of corn, rice, beans, wheat, potatoes and many other foods. In fact it is the most common carbohydrate in various diets.

Sugar

Sugar is a sweet material obtained from plants like sugar beet and sugar cane. This water-soluble crystalline carbohydrate is exemplified by sucrose and glucose. Sugars are classified as monosaccharides, disaccharides, and trisaccharides.

Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar; they cannot be hydrolysed to give a simpler sugar. Glucose, galactose and fructose are examples of monosaccharide.

Disaccharides

Also known as biose and double sugar, a disaccharide is a class of sugar whose molecules contain two monosaccharide residues. Sucrose, maltose and lactose are examples of disaccharide.

Trisaccharides

Trisaccharides are oligosaccharides. A trisaccharide yields three monosaccharide molecules upon hydrolysis. Nigerotriose, isomaltotriose and melezitose are examples of trisaccharide.

Sucrose is a Disaccharide

Source

Fiber

Dietary fibers are carbohydrates that the human body cannot digest. They regulate the body's use of sugars and facilitate the movement of food through the digestive tract.

5 High-Fiber Foods

Sl No
Food
Grams Per Cup
1
Split Peas
16.3
2
Lentils
15.6
3
Black Beans
15
4
Lima Beans
13.2
5
Artichokes
10.3

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Functions of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates perform many important functions in the body. Glucose provides energy to tissues in the body. Carbohydrates prevent proteins from being used as a source of energy.

Fibers are necessary for a healthy digestive system. They pass undigested through the small intestine and are converted into fatty acids and gases by the large intestine. These fatty acids can either be used as fuel by the large intestine or be absorbed into the blood stream. They also prevent constipation and its complications.

Deficiency Symptoms

Constipation, fatigue, nausea, headache and bad breath are signs that you are not getting enough carbohydrates.

10 Natural Sources of Carbohydrates

Sl No
Serving Size
No of Carbohydrates
1
1 apple
32
2
1 banana
28
3
Black beans (half cup)
22
4
Garbanzo beans (half cup)
22
5
Green beans (half cup)
4
6
Pinto beans (half cup)
22
7
Cantaloupe (1 wedge)
6
8
Carrot (half cup)
8
9
Corn (half cup)
16
10
Green peas (half cup)
11

Make the Most of Carbohydrates

The quantity of carbohydrate in the food is less important than the type of carbohydrate in the diet. Healthy, whole grains like whole wheat bread, rye, barley and quinoa are better than highly refined white bread or French fries.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about carbohydrates. Remember that it is more important to get carbohydrates from healthy foods than to follow a strict diet limiting carb intake.

Begin your day with whole grains. Choose a cereal that has at least four grams of fiber and not more than eight grams of sugar per serving. Consume whole grain breads for lunch.


Try a whole grain in salad form (like quinoa). Go for whole fruits instead of juices. Fruits usually have more fiber and less sugar than juices. Carbohydrates are not contained in patatoes only. Beans are excellent sources of slowly digested carbs. Legumes and beans are rich in proteins too.

Summary

  • Carbohydrates comprise of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
  • General empirical structure of carbohydrates is (CH2O)n.
  • Starch, sugar and fiber are three types of carbohydrates.
  • Fibers regulate the body's use of sugars and facilitate the movement of food through the digestive tract.
  • Dietary fibers promote a healthy digestive system.
  • Quinoa is a healthy carbohydrates food.

It is more important to eat some carbohydrates at breakfast, because the brain needs fuel right away, and carbohydrate is the best source.

— Andrew Weil

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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 5 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice and informative hub about carbohydrates! The table about natural resources is very helpful. I learnt something new from your this well presented hub.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • srirad0675 profile image
      Author

      Srikanth R 5 weeks ago

      Most welcome!

    • jimmyglaughlin profile image

      Jim Laughlin 5 weeks ago from Connecticut

      Carbs, carbs, carbs! My doctor wants me to lower my carb intake. I love bread and pasta! Argh, what to do?

      Good Hub!

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