What are simple carbohydrates and what is their role in the body?
Carbohydrates, along with proteins and fats, are essential nutrients that form the basis of our daily diet. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. What are simple carbohydrates and what is their role in the body? What foods are the main sources of simple carbohydrates?
What are simple carbohydrates?
A single polysaccharide (or carbohydrate) consists of one carbon atom, one oxygen atom, and one hydrogen atom. This is the structure of monosaccharides, otherwise known as simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are carbohydrates made up of two or more monosaccharides (referred to as disaccharides, oligosaccharides, or polysaccharides respectively). Polysaccharides are mainly found in products of plant origin.
The most common representatives of simple carbohydrates are:
- Glucose - the primary form of carbohydrate found in abundance in juices, fruits, and honey. Furthermore, it is the building block of all disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and disaccharides
- Fructose - is the main content of fruit juice and honey. It is found in much smaller quantities in fruits
- Galactose - a polysaccharide resulting from the combination of proteins and fats, as evidenced by its presence in lactose, the sugar found in milk.
- Mannose - a carbohydrate formed by the synthesis of proteins with lipids, which is used in the manufacture of vegetable gums.
Simple carbohydrates - what is their role in the body?
There is no doubt that the body primarily uses carbohydrates as an energy source. The very simple structure of monosaccharides means that after their digestion the organism receives a boost in a very short time. This creates ideal conditions to combat psychophysical fatigue,
which is especially used by athletes. Runners and cyclists often support themselves during training, for example, with isotonic drinks, energy gels or carbohydrate supplements - all these products are a mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates, which can be enriched additives (eg electrolytes or caffeine).
However, it should be noted that high consumption of monosaccharides is harmful to your health. The high glycemic index of simple carbohydrates means that they cause rapid spikes in glucose and a sudden release of insulin. In the long term, this can lead to the development of insulin resistance, which leads to obesity, increased body fat, and cardiovascular disease.
But this does not mean that the daily diet should be free of simple sugars. Monosaccharides should account for about 10% of your daily energy intake. In addition, it is recommended to take them during the day (especially before noon), which allows the body to burn calories saved during the activities performed.