• Carbohydrates

ARTICLES & GUIDES

CARBOHYDRATES

What It Is?

  • Carbohydrate is found primarily in plant foods; the exception is dairy products, which contain milk sugar (lactose). There are several types of carbohydrate:
  • Sugars are the smallest type of carbohydrate and include single sugars and those with two sugar molecules joined together.
  • Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that chemically have characteristics of both sugars and alcohols.
  • Starches are made up of many glucose molecules linked together into long chains.
  • Dietary fiber is made up of many sugar molecules linked together. But unlike starches, fiber is bound together in such a way that it cannot be readily digested. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Where Is It Found?

  • Sugars are found naturally in foods such as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Sugars are also added to foods and beverages for taste, texture and preservation, and are often found in foods such as grain-based and dairy desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweets.
  • Sugar alcohols are found naturally in small amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Sugar alcohols are also commercially produced from sugars and starch and added as reduced-calorie sweeteners to foods, such as chewing gum, frostings, grain-based and dairy desserts, and sweets.
  • Starches are found naturally in beans and peas (such as garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lentils, and split peas), grains (such as barley, brown rice, corn, oats, and wheat), and vegetables (such as carrots and potatoes). Starches can also be added to foods during processing or preparation to thicken or stabilize them.
  • Dietary fiber is found in beans and peas, fruits, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and whole grain foods (such as brown rice and whole grain breads, cereals, pasta).

What It Does?

  • Sugars and starches are the body’s main sources of calories. Your body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose. Glucose in the blood (often referred to as “blood sugar”) is the primary energy source for the body. Sugars are also used to sweeten, preserve, and improve the functional attributes of food.
  • Sugar alcohols provide a sweet taste with fewer calories per gram than table sugar (sucrose), and are commonly used in place of sugar in food. Sugar alcohols also have other functions in food, including producing a “cooling” sensation in the mouth, adding bulk and texture to food, and helping to retain moisture and prevent browning.
  • Dietary fiber promotes intestinal regularity and helps prevent constipation. Fiber also makes you feel full, slows digestion and the rate at which carbohydrates and other nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, and can interfere with the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol.

Source: “Factsheets Total Carbohydrate” Accessdata.fda.gov

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