What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are a major source of energy. When eaten, the body converts most carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), which is used to fuel cells such as those of the brain and muscles.
Carbohydrates are not a food group like fruit, vegetables, starches and dairy foods. Carbohydrates are one of three macro-nutrients (nutrients required in large amounts) found in food – the others being fat and protein. Lots of foods contain all three in varying amounts.
There are three different types of carbohydrate: sugar, starch and fibre. Most carbohydrate foods contain a mixture of all three types in varying amounts.
- Sugar is found naturally in some foods, including fruit, fruit juices, milk (lactose) and vegetables. Other forms of sugar (for example table sugar) are also added to processed foods and drinks such as sweets, chocolates, biscuits and soft drinks. Remember: sugar is a carb but not all carbs are sugars.
- Starch, made up of many sugar units bonded together, is found in foods that come from plants. Starchy foods provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day.
- Fibre is only found in foods that come from plants. Fibre helps with digestion and may help lower cholesterol. Good sources of fibre include vegetables with skins on, wholegrain bread, whole wheat pasta and pulses (beans and lentils).