There’s lots of confusion around CARBS… So let’s break it down quickly like it’s Fructose
Carbohydrates are classified by their structure. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
- Simple carbohydrates are smaller, more easily processed molecules known as mono- and disaccharides since they contain either one sugar molecule or two sugar molecules linked together. (Glucose, Fructose, Sucrose, Maltose, Lactose)
- Complex carbohydrates are called polysaccharides since they have more than two sugar groups linked together. (Starch and dextrins, Glycogen, Inulin, Cellulose, Pectin)
Each subtype of carbohydrate has different effects on the human body depending on its structure and its food source, which affect things like:
- How quickly and/or easily the carbohydrate molecule is digested and absorbed
- If other nutrients are eaten along with the carbohydrate. Fat and protein slow down the digestion and/or absorption
- Our perceptions of the carbohydrates’ texture and sweetness
- Enzyme action in the mouth and gut
All carbs are digested into simple sugars before they’re absorbed by the body, regardless of whether the food source is a simple white sugar cube or a high-fiber, low glycemic index bowl of oatmeal. It’s just that the “healthier carbs” are digested and absorbed much slower while the “non-healthy” carbs are digested very quickly.
Once broken down and absorbed, the sugars go to the liver to fill energy stores. After that, they enter the bloodstream and travel out to the other cells of the body.
Carbohydrates are primarily a source of immediate energy for your body’s cells.
As previously mentioned, carbohydrates also cause a release of insulin. A larger insulin response can be beneficial at certain times (like after an intense workout) and not so beneficial at certain times (like before bed).
Carbohydrates that are digested and absorbed slowly, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can help to control insulin response, energy levels, and body composition.
Unrefined, unprocessed, complex carbohydrate sources may reduce triglycerides and improve one’s cholesterol profile (Jenkins et al 1987). Other benefits of a lower glycemic diet include increased vitamin and mineral intake, increased fiber intake, enhanced satiety, a higher thermic effect of feeding, and blood sugar control (Ludwig & Eckel 2002; Ludwig 2000).
The average person’s minimum carbohydrate intake should be 130 grams per day, with a majority coming from vegetables and fruits. Higher amounts of carbohydrates are needed with increased muscle mass and increased physical activity levels. However, excessive carbohydrate consumption will be stored for future use (as fat or glycogen).