What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates (or carbohydrates) are highly energetic and fundamental molecules for the development of life.
They are mainly composed of the carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms. The term carbohydrates, sugars, and carbohydrates is interchangeable.
In the diet, carbohydrates are what are known as sugars. These can be of simple chemical composition, such as glucose, or of a more complex chemical composition, such as starch.
Types of carbohydrates
Below are the types of carbohydrates.
- Simple carbohydrates: they contain only one or two types of sugars. For example, glucose, found in table sugar, or maltose, found in barley grains.
- Complex carbohydrates: they contain more than two types of sugars.
- Starches: they are complex carbohydrates with high glucose content. Potato or potato starch is a chain made up of several glucose molecules linked together. It is easily assimilated by the human being.
- Fibers: they contain nondigestible carbohydrates. An example is cabbages. These (like starches) have mixtures of complex carbohydrates. Its usefulness in the human diet is to regularize digestion.
Function of carbohydrates
The main functions of carbohydrates are:
- Energy contribution:Most of the carbohydrates consumed in the human diet are digested and transformed into glucose and glucose is the main source of energy (known as ATP) to keep the body working.
- Energy storage:excess glucose is transformed into a molecule called glycogen and stored in the liver: whenever the body requires sugar immediately, it breaks down glycogen instantly, turning it into glucose.
- Tissue formation:Carbohydrates, in combination with other molecules, form the structural base of many tissues in the human body. For example, cell membranes can contain up to 10% carbohydrates in association with proteins and lipids .
Carbohydrates in the diet
Even though vegetables and fruits contain carbohydrates, carbohydrates are considered to be sugars from legumes, cereals and dairy, among others.
The carbohydrates recommended in diets are complex carbohydrates, because these must go through more digestion steps to be absorbed and used.
While simple carbohydrates are easily absorbed and energy is obtained quickly. Long-chain sugars (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides) must first break internal bonds between the chain sugars, releasing single sugar units.
Structural classification of carbohydrates
The structural classification of carbohydrates is shown below:
- Monosaccharides: they are simple sugars in their most basic form.
- Disaccharides: formed by the union of two monosaccharides.
- Oligosaccharides: Contains between 3 and 10 monosaccharides. It is a polymer.
- Polysaccharides: Contains long chains of monosaccharides connected to each other in different orientations.