Carbohydrates 101

Carbohydrates, more well known as carbs, are somewhat confusing to people. Yes, this is the dreaded nutrient that bloats you the most. However, with a little education comes a large change. And you can change how bloated you get by reading the information below.

I’m not going to go too far in depth. I’ll fill you in on a little bit of science and keep it simple.

First off, a carbohydrate is a natural organic substance required to help the body function. The digestion of them is the same as any other nutrient. The only exception involves the complexity of the molecular structure. This is where the simple and complex carbs labeling comes into play.

How many types of Carbohydrates are there? And what’s the difference?

There are three (3) types of Carbohydrates. Monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides.

To make things easier to understand, please keep one thing in mind. A monosaccharide is the base of all sugars. As you increase the complexity of the molecular level (disaccharide to polysaccharides), you’re just adding more monosaccharides to make it more complex. Basically, the more you add, the longer it takes to break down.

Monosaccharides are the simplest kind of carb. Consisting of the complexity of glucose (blood sugar), it’s the most rapidly broken down of the three. Glucose is the main source of energy throughout your body. This is why it’s the easiest to digest and be absorbed.

Foods containing these include fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose).

Disaccharides is very similar to monosaccharides. It’s simply two monosaccharides linked together with a chemical bond. With that being said, disaccharides are found in the same sources as that of monosaccharides.

Polysaccharides are complex. These take the longest to break down, let alone digest. Known as starchy carbs, these are the kind you want to consume.

These are found in (whole) wheat pasta, bread, and some cereals. You can also find them in flour.

Digestive Breakdown

Simply put, digestion is about breaking down the most complex structures into the easiest. In this case, it’s breaking disaccharides and polysaccharides into monosaccharides.

Considering that carbohydrates are forms of sugar, insulin is released from the pancreas when carbs are digested. Insulin is the substance that helps regulate blood sugar as well as put the newly digested sugars into your muscle fibers for energy. Therefore, the longer it takes to digest, the more insulin will be released and over a long time period.

*This is the reason you see veins appear after eating complex carbs. Veins appearing means blood sugar is in your blood and insulin is regulating it.

Case in point: The more complex the molecular structure is, the longer it will take to digest.

What’s the Difference Nutritional Wise?

This ties in with digestion. The more complex of a breakdown a nutrient has, the longer it’s going to stay in your digestive track. This is where the term “good” and “bad” carbs come into play.

Good carbs, referred to some as complex carbs, play a very beneficial role. Found in whole wheat bread, pasta, bagels, oatmeal, some cereals and vegetables, these carbs stay in your system longer. The excess time it takes digesting means a slower digestion rate, more time for more nutrients to be absorbed, as well as a “full” feeling that lasts longer.

Bad carbs are things such as junk food or empty calories. These are full of carbs, but also full of bad fats and calories. Unlike good carbs, bad carbs don’t stay in your system very long digestion wise. They’re digested and absorbed quickly, causing you get hungry quicker. This causes you to eat more and after you know it, you’ve eaten the entire bag, pack, etc.

How can I make right food choices if I don’t like whole grain or whole wheat?

Many foods that are high in complex and starchy carbs may not be held on such a high taste pedestal. While I can agree, there are ways of getting around the dry, non-sweet taste.

Jelly and jelly helps out with both taste and texture of foods. If eaten after a workout, the sugar in the jam and jelly can promote insulin spike, too.

Peanut butter works wonders for taste and consistency. Working with it’s partner listed above, peanut butter is packed with good fats, carbs, and protein. Frequently used on toast, bagels, or even straight out of the jar, it also helps curve your appetite by giving you a full feeling.

*Be careful with excess. Keep in mind that peanut butter is mostly fat. Depending on your goal, aim for low fat to fat free peanut butter.

Spice It Up Some by adding some hot sauce or black pepper to pasta sauces. A few teaspoons to a jar your favorite pasta sauce can make a huge difference.


Multiple Meals– Doing something as simple as eating two meals or snacks with starchy carbs a day will help you out. Not only will it curve your appetite, but you’ll be surprised how much more energy you have, too. Keep in mind carbohydrates fuel your cells and tissues.

A good thing to do is have oatmeal (original or flavored) or bagel in the morning with your usual drink (unless that includes alcohol). Then for a snack have a sandwich on whole wheat bread.  Later on make pasta or have a starchy vegetable (Lima beans, baked potato).

Stay Hydrated! I can’t say it enough. Make sure you continuously are drinking water throughout the day. No it isn’t as sweet as that Pepsi or Mountain Dew, but keep in mind 70% of your body is water. I’m not saying you can’t have a soda or tea, but make sure you have adequate water intake. Plus water will make the starchy carbs expand in your gut.

Carbohydrates are essential. While some try to avoid them as much as possible, it’s impossible to eliminate them. One big thing you can do to help yourself is avoid the junk food aisle. While it’s a golden shrine to many, time will catch up with you as well as the numerous bags of chips , pretzels, and cheese curls found there.


2 responses to “Carbohydrates 101

  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

    • Sorry for the late reply. I’m going to be going more in depth as time progresses. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

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