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Nutrition

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are found in most of the food we consume in our everyday lives and acts as the main source of energy for our cells. There are three types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber. These three types of carbohydrates can be divided into simple or complex carbohydrates.

 Sugar and starch are referred to as simple carbohydrates.  Simple carbohydrates do not require further breakdown in the body because they are already in the simplest form. Simple carbohydrates exist as one unit or two unit sugars. In the body they are found as glucose or fructose. The simplicity of these carbohydrates allows these sugars and starches to be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

Fibers and some starches are referred to as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are foods that contain many units of sugar combined together. As a result, these complex carbohydrates need to be broken down into very small units, to be absorbed in the bloodstream and transported to the cells of the body.

High Sources of Carbohydrates:

Click the tabs below to learn about the different types of carbohydrates.

Types of Carbohydrates

Sugar, commonly referred to as glucose, is the main source of energy for the cells in the body. It is normally stored within the muscle, fat tissue, and in the liver in the form of glycogen. When the body's energy is low, it utilizes the stored sugar for the required energy. In the foods we consume, sugar can be found in two ways. It can be found in the naturally occurring food we eat or it can be added to processed foods. Sugars found in naturally occurring foods are referred to as sucrose, fructose, or lactose. These sugars are normally found in fruits like berries, or dairy products like milk or yogurt. Added sugars are normally found in processed foods like breakfast cereal, cookies and even in beverages we drink. There is no nutritional benefit from added sugars. Therefore it is important to monitor what we eat to ensure our blood sugar levels are within the normal range. It is better to avoid processed sugars, as there is no nutritional benefit.

Foods high in sugar:

Foods low in sugar:

Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate that is found in plant-based foods, nuts and legumes. Consuming food that are high in fiber is important because it helps with our digestive health. Fiber aids digestive processes because it is able to pass through the body without being broken down. This comes as a benefit to the digestive system since it helps to move digested food through the digestive tract easily. As well, fiber helps us to stay full and satisfied after eating. This is an advantage because it can prevent you from over eating, even though you may be full.

Foods high in fibre:

Here is a helpful document on fibre sources from Kidney Health!

Starch is normally found in grains (wheat, rice, barley and oats) as well as some vegetables like potatoes, corns, and beans. They are usually simple carbohydrates but can also exist as complex carbohydrates. Starch can be used to convert the glucose units it is composed of to make energy (or calories). It is stored as glycogen in our liver and muscles and is used when our system is low in energy.  

Foods high in starch: