what are carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (or carbohydrates) are highly energetic molecules and essential for the development of life.

They are mainly composed of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms. The term carbohydrates, sugars and carbohydrates are interchangeable.

In the diet, carbohydrates are what are known as sugars. These can be of a simple chemical composition, such as glucose, or a more complex chemical composition, such as starch.

functions of carbohydrates

The main functions of carbohydrates are:

  • Energy contribution: Most carbohydrates consumed in the human diet are digested into glucose, and glucose is the main source of energy (known as ATP) to keep the body running.
  • Energy storage: excess glucose is transformed into a molecule called glycogen and stored in the liver: every time the body requires sugar immediately, it instantly degrades glycogen, converting it into glucose.
  • Tissue formation: Carbohydrates, in combination with other molecules, form the structural basis of many tissues in the human body. For example, cell membranes can contain up to 10% carbohydrates in association with proteins and lipids.

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 a high glucose content. Potato or potato starch is a chain made up of several glucose molecules linked together. It is easily assimilated by humans.
  • Fibers: They contain indigestible carbohydrates. An example is cabbage. These (just like starches) have mixtures of complex carbohydrates. Its usefulness in the human diet is to regulate digestion.
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carbohydrates in the diet

Even though vegetables and fruits contain carbohydrates, in nutrition sugars from legumes, cereals and dairy products, among others, are considered carbohydrates.

The recommended carbohydrates in diets are complex carbohydrates, because these must go through more steps of digestion to be absorbed and used.

While simple carbohydrates are easily absorbed and energy is quickly obtained. Long-chain sugars (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides) must first break internal bonds between the sugars in the chain, releasing simple sugar units.


Structural classification of carbohydrates

Below is the structural classification of carbohydrates:

  • Monosaccharides: they are simple sugars in their most basic form.
  • Disaccharides: formed by the union of two monosaccharides.
  • Oligosaccharides: It contains between 3 and 10 monosaccharides. It is a polymer.
  • Polysaccharides: It contains long chains of monosaccharides connected to each other in different orientations.