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What Carbohydrates Are All About

Updated on December 3, 2016

Carbohydrates and the basic function of sugars and starches in the body

Carbohydrates are one of the most important dietary components, and include starches, sugars, and fiber. Carbohydrates play an important role in providing the body with energy, especially the brain and nerves system. (“Carbohydrates,” 2012)

The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates

There are two types of carbohydrates; simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates have one or two sugars, while complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars. These two types are carbohydrates are classified by the chemical structure of the food, like mentioned before, and by how quickly the sugar is digested and absorbed.

How sugars are broken down and used in the body

The breakdown of carbohydrates start with the enzymes we all have in our mouths and then it’s on to the stomach. While in the stomach carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugar molecules which then pass through the lining of the stomach and enter the blood stream. Once in the blood stream, the pancreas releases insulin which guides the sugar molecules to various cells throughout the body. These cells will then use the sugar molecules for energy. (“How are sugars,” 2014)

Examples of foods that are considered healthy sources of carbohydrates

Incorporating the right kind of carbohydrates in your diet is important. Some carbohydrates are bad for you, “refined carbohydrates should be limited because they are typically low in fiber and contain added sugars, which are empty calories” (Grosvenor & Smolin, 2012, P. 124). Here is a list of foods that are a healthy source of carbohydrates: Apples, oranges, bananas, nuts, lentils, garbanzo beans, cottage cheese, unsweetened yogurt, low-fat milk, wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, spinach, broccoli, corn, sweet potato, and carrots.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is “the inability to completely digest lactose due to a reduction in the levels of the enzyme lactase” (Grosvenor & Smolin, 2012, P.106). This disorder can cause a significant amount of pain and discomfort like gas, abdominal distension, cramping, and diarrhea for a person that consumes dairy products. This occurs when lactose draws water into the large intestine and metabolizes.

Treatment for this type of disorder is limited to getting the calcium the body needs through nondairy sources like tofu, canned salmon, dark green vegetables, sardines, calcium-fortified foods, calcium supplements, and lactase-treated milk; or through lactase pills that allow you to eat dairy products by breaking down the lactose before it gets to the large intestine.

The benefits carbohydrates provide the body

There are a few different benefits that carbohydrates provide the body that you might not know about. The number one benefit to having carbohydrates in your diet is the energy that it provides. Carbohydrates can also help prevent diseases, the fiber that you consume helps fight against type 2 diabetes, obesity, indigestion, and it helps to keep cholesterol and heart diseases in check. Another benefit of carbohydrates is that it can help you control your weight. If you eat the right kind of carbohydrates and monitor your eating habits, carbohydrates can actually help maintain or even reduce weight. (“benefits of carbohydrates,” 2014)

Carbohydrates, Good source or Bad source?

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Carbohydrates. (2012, May 16). Retrieved from

How are sugars broken down and used in the body . (2014, February 15). Retrieved from

Benefits of carbohydrates. (2014, February 15). Retrieved from

Grosvenor, M. B., & Smolin, L. A. (2012). Visualizing Nutrition: Everyday choices (2th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.


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