Section 1, Lesson 3
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Carbohydrates | Carbs

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Carbohydrates or “carbs” are a preferred energy source for your body. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and other foods. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. One gram of carbohydrates equals about 4 calories.

Carbs have an influence on “mood, memory, etc., as well as a quick energy source.

Simple vs. complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are categorized as simple or complex. The difference between the two forms is the chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested. Generally speaking, simple carbs are digested and absorbed more quickly and easily than complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates contain just one or two sugars, such as fructose (found in fruits) and galactose (found in milk products).

Simple carbs are also in candy, soda and syrups. However, these foods are made with processed and refined sugars and do not have vitamins, minerals or fiber, which is why they’re called “empty calories” and can lead to weight gain.

Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars. They are often referred to as starchy foods and include beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, whole-grain breads, etc. Simple carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, while complex carbs provide more sustained energy.

Studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with simple carbs, such as those in many processed foods, sweets, cakes, and such is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So, it’s best to focus on getting primarily complex carbs in your diet, including from whole grains and vegetables, beans, etc.