Carbohydrates are the main and the fastest energy sources for the body. Term “carbohydrates” is not equal with term “sugars“. Sugar is a term used for sucrose (table sugar), but also for glucose, fructose, lactose and maltose. Carbohydrates are combinations of different sugars, starch and fibre.
The main carbohydrate for human body is glucose. The whole organism, especially brain, uses glucose for the main energy source, despite physical efforts. In the case of carbohydrate deficiency the body starts to synthesize glucose from protein, which significantly weakens the body’s immune system. Even the bodyfat reserve is used with the energy from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates fulfill many functions in the body:
- main source of energy: 1 gr carbohydrates = 4 kcal
- belongs in the composition of cells, tissues and hormones
- determines the blood group
- belongs in the composition of antibodies
- glycogen is a temporary glucose supply that the body can easily use in the times of starvation
- fibers are necessary for the maintenance of the digestive system
The National Institute for Health Development says that 50-60% of daily food energy should come from carbohydrates. Energy from added sugars should not be more than 10% of daily food energy. Healthy adult whose daily energy need is 2000 kcal should consume: 0,5 x 2000 kcal/4 kcal = 250 g up to 0,6 x 2000 kcal/4 kcal = 300 g carbohydrates daily. Accordingly when daily energy need is 2500 kcal, one adult should consume 313–375 gr of carbohydrates, 3000 kcal means 375–450 g carbohydates.
The main sources of carbohydrates are grains and potatoes. Fruits, fruit juices and berries consist also from carbohydrates – different natural sugars. Sweets, soft drinks, syrups, bakery products and dairy often are sources for added sugars. Added sugars are added to food during processing.
The main carbohydrates and their best food sources:
|Glucose i.e. grape sugar||Honey, fruits, berries, juices|
|Fructose i.e. fruit sugar||Fruits, berries, juices, honey|
|Lactose i.e. milk sugar||Milk and dairy products|
|Maltose i.e. malt sugar||Grains|
|Sucrose e table sugar||Sugarcane, sugar beet, table sugar, food with added sugars, fruits, berries|
|Maltodextrin||Comes from starch, used mainly as food additive, also in beer and bread|
|Starch||Potatoes, grains, rice, pasta|
There is no reason to be afraid of carbohydrates, but it is important to choose from the right sources and not to overeat. Whole grain foods and vegetables should be preferred carbohydrate sources.