A primer on carbohydrates and fiber

We all know that the food we eat contain the vital proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are required for the energy requirement of the body and the sustenance of life.

How important is the role of carbohydrates ?

The primary source of energy for a body is from the carbohydrates. This energy to the body is measured in terms of calories. It is this calories that we need to do our activities in the life on a daily basis – be it working out on a gym, or even sleeping at the bed.

As a major nutrient to the body, carbohydrates can be categorized into three broad categories.

They are – i) mono saccharides, (ii) disaccharides, and (iii) complex carbohydrates.

Mono saccharides, also referred to as simple sugars, include fructose and glucose, that are required for the body. Di saccharides include sucrose, lactose and maltose. The third category – complex carbohydrates – include starch, fiber, glycogen and cellulose.

While all the three categories of carbohydrates provide a lot of calories and the energy for the body, it is the complex carbohydrates that matter the most and should be included in a healthy diet on a daily basis.

The sugars present in mono saccharides and disaccharides do provide a lot of calories. However, these sugars, also referred to as “empty calories”, either lack or have very low content of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients required for the body. In addition, excessive consumption of these empty calories in the form of sugars can lead to many health related problems such as hie cholesterol levels. Obesity and tooth decay.

The third category – complex carbohydrates – are the one that needs to be consumed the most, among the carbohydrates, primarily because they not only provide the energy in the form of calories, but also contain a whole lot of nutrients that include minerals, vitamins and proteins.

The major source of complex carbohydrates that one should include in his diet is plant-based foods such as potatoes, wholegrains such as rice as well as wheat and by-products of wholegrains such as flour, bread, pasta etc., and also pulses such as peas, lentils, beans etc.,

Substances that are found in plant foods such as starch are referred to as fiber, or dietary fiber. The salient feature of starch or dietary fiber is that it is absorbed into the body slowly, thus ensuring that the body gets sustained levels of energy for a longer period of time than sudden boosts of energy. In addition, the starches are slightly bulkier to eat, and is likely to occupy more space in the stomach, giving a sense of fullness and keeping you satisfied for a relatively longer time.