About carbohydrates

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Dietary fiber is also a type of carbohydrate. Unlike starch, your body cannot break fiber down into sugars. But you still need to eat fiber to keep your digestive system working well. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Whole-grain foods (such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice) are also high in fiber.

You’re probably already familiar with one type of carbohydrate — table sugar. But there are also other types of sugars. They’re found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk. Your cells can change all of these sugars into glucose (GLOO-kohss), or blood sugar. Your cells “burn” glucose for energy.

Another type of carbohydrate is starch. Starches are made up of a lot of sugars strung together. Starches are found in vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and corn. They are also found in breads, cereals, and pasta. Your body breaks starches down into sugars.

Healthy and unhealthy carbohydrates

Healthy carbohydrates include:

  • Natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, and milk
  • Starches in whole-grain foods, beans, peas, and corn
  • Dietary fiber

Unhealthy carbohydrates are those that raise your blood sugar level too much. The problem with having high blood sugar is that it can, over time, cause you to develop diabetes. Eating too much table sugar can do that. So can eating too much of other sugars that are added to foods. You can tell if something has added sugars by looking at the ingredients list on the package or soda can. Look for terms such as:

  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fructose (FRUHK-tohss)
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose (DEK-strohss)
  • Glucose
  • Lactose (LAK-tohss)
  • Maltose (MAHL-tohss)
  • Sucrose (SOO-krohss)
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Molasses
  • Malt syrup
  • Syrup
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