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Types Of Carbohydrates: See What They Are!

Healthy carbohydrates should be included in a balanced diet to help the body function properly and provide a better quality of life and well-being for day-to-day activities.

In this post, we will understand the differences between the types of carbohydrates, their benefits, and which foods can be included in the diet.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are energy macronutrients, also known as carbohydrates or sugars, formed by carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules.

According to the magazine Additives & Ingredients, carbohydrates are related to the energy supply to cells and are part of the structure of nucleic acids (RNA and DNA).

What Types Of Carbohydrates?

Generally speaking, the most popular definitions of macronutrient types are simple and complex carbohydrates. Next, we will understand a little more about how their subdivision works.

These are subdivided into three groups according to the number of glycosidic bonds:

  • Monosaccharides (only one sugar per molecule, such as fructose and glucose), oligosaccharides or disaccharides (two sugars per molecule, such as sucrose, lactose, and maltose), and polysaccharides (many sugars per molecule, such as glucose polymers).

To distinguish simple carbohydrates (easy absorption) from complex carbohydrates (slow absorption), we must evaluate the number of sugars in each group since the more sugars, the longer it takes to digest.

Thus, the simple ones are part of monosaccharides, oligosaccharides or disaccharides, and the complexes of polysaccharides.

Types Of Carbohydrates And Their Functions

Despite the differences between the types of carbohydrates, they all have functions that involve providing energy to the body.

According to the article on The Chemistry of Food, from UFAL, in addition to energy, carbohydrates demonstrate effective results in the preservation of proteins and protection against ketone bodies (acid substances) that harm the body, in addition to fuel for the central nervous system – with the distribution glucose to the brain, red blood cells, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.

Still, according to the article, the primary classifications among the types of carbohydrates are:

  • Starch: is the primary dietary source of carbohydrates, present in various foods from roots to legumes.
  • Cellulose: helps in the functioning of the intestine, being extracted exclusively from plants.
  • Fructose: with greater concentration in honey and fruits, it gradually provides energy.
  • Galactose: from lactose, milk, and its derivatives, it is transformed into glucose by the liver.
  • Glucose: has faster absorption and is therefore found in some fruits, cereals, and vegetables – when not used as an immediate source, it is stored in the muscle in the form of muscle glycogen or the liver.
  • Lactose is a sugar present in milk, less sweet, with 5 to 8% in human milk and 4 to 5% in cow’s milk.
  • Maltodextrin is found in supplements and plays a vital role in muscle glycogen synthesis.
  • Maltose: Found in germinating cereals and malt derivatives.
  • Sucrose is present in beet and sugar cane and more commercialized as white sugar (formed by glucose and fructose). It has rapid absorption, raising blood glucose quickly and creating glycogen reserves.

Diet With Carbohydrates

Anyone who thinks that carbohydrates are bad choices for diets is wrong, as nutrient-rich foods offer essential benefits for the proper functioning of the organism.

There are no types of carbohydrates for the ideal diet since each person must follow a diet based on nutritional needs according to the current routine.

Always talk to a nutritionist to understand which foods and supplements best fit your diet.

Carbohydrates Make You Fat?

It depends! Several diets focus on complex carbohydrates to help control consumption, such as low-carb and ketogenic, significantly reducing the intake of nutrient-rich foods.

The point is that you will only get fat with carbohydrates if the amount ingested exceeds the energy expenditure during daily activities.

Do Carbohydrates Help In Muscle Mass Gain?

Yea! By adding foods rich in simple carbohydrates to the diet of practitioners of physical activities, it is possible to have more immediate energy during exercise and consequently a better absorption of proteins since the nutrient helps replenish glycogen reserves in the muscles.

In addition, macronutrients help protect the immune system, preventing injury and disease, which can favor performance in training and assist in muscle mass gain.

Remember to consult a specialist to assess the appropriate amount for each sport.

Carbohydrate-Rich Foods

Foods rich in carbohydrates are classified by the glycemic index (GI) – low (complex) or high (simple), which become crucial elements when setting up a balanced diet.

Check out some examples according to experts from the Orion Lab channel.

  • Types of simple carbohydrates: derived from white wheat (cookies, pasta, bread, etc.), white rice, fruits (bananas, oranges, mangoes, among others), potatoes, and white sugar.
  • Types of complex carbohydrates: avocado, brown rice, sweet potatoes, nuts, cereals, whole meal flour (pasta, bread, cookies, and crackers), beans, lychee, flaxseed, apple, cassava, manioc, walnuts, quinoa, and soy.


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