It what can only be described as the “circle of life”, every six months we see a new study claiming that a high-carb diet is better than high-protein diet or vice versa. What is most important to the question what are carbs is to understand what are good, and what are bad carbs. Essentially, your body needs carbs to function properly, as carbs are one of the three main sources of energy in our bodies.
When you think of carbs, think of sugars, fiber, and starches that are found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Carbs, along with protein and fats are macronutrients that are essential for our body to function properly. Macronutrients, no matter if they are carbs, protein or fat, need to be obtained through our diet, as the body cannot produce them on its own.
And if you were wondering why the name carbs, it comes from the chemical composition of carbs, which is carbonate, hydrogen, and oxygen.
What do Carbs Do?
Now that we know the answer to the question what are carbs, the next question is what do they do? As mentioned, carbs provide our body with fuel and energy. But their most important task is to provide energy for our central nervous system and working muscles. Carbs are the most important macronutrient for our brain function, as they influence mood, memory and much more. Additionally, carbs prevent the protein from being used as energy source.
Simple versus Complex
There are two ways to divide carbs into groups, and the first way is to divide them into simple and complex carbohydrates. The difference between simple and complex carbs is in the chemical structure, and how quickly the sugar from the carbs is digested.
Simple carbs are made from one or two sugars at max. A common type of sugar is fructose, found in fruits, and galactose, found in dairy products. The single sugars are called monosaccharides while carbs with two sugars are called disaccharides.
Complex carb contains three or more sugars in their chemical structure. They are called polysaccharides and are often referred as starchy foods.