Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugars, both simple and complex, that are made up of a combination carbon, hydration, and oxygen in a 1:2:1 ratio. Complex carbohydrates are held together with dietary fiber or roughage, or in long chains. These carbohydrates take more work from the digestive system to break down into glucose, the sugar humans use to supply energy, and thus they enter the body at a slower pace over a longer period of time than simple carbohydrates. This food group is one of the most significant forms of energy for adults, the World Health Organization recommends that 55% to 75% of adult energy needs to come from carbohydrates. When the level of carbohydrates in one’s system falls below the necessary amount people need they experience muscle cramps, fatigue, and decreased mental function and resistance to disease.

Poly means many and polysaccharides, or starch, are complex carbohydrates that because they contain many sugar molecules tend to have a sweet flavor. Starches are long chains of simple carbohydrates and, for this reason, are not the most sugar stabilizing form of complex carbohydrates. Starchy foods are: potatoes (sweet and others), pizza, bread, beans, rice, fries, fruits, and corn. The starch portion is digested via amylase, and the cellulose or insoluble fiber is passed down the digestive tract along with the soluble fiber. Starch helps build healthy liver cells and muscles. In some cases, such as legumes, they have components of starch and dietary fiber.

Oligosaccharide, another complex carbohydrate, means few, and refers to the small number of sugar molecules that are included. They tend not to taste sweet, and they promote the production of bacteria in the stomach, or prebiotics, that aid digestion and help nutrients enter the body. They are found in onions, asparagus and wheat.

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The dietary fiber portion of complex carbohydrates is divided between soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in apples, oranges, bananas, legumes (peas, soybeans, and beans), broccoli, carrots, and oats. Insoluble fiber is in corn and wheat bran, carrot and potato skins, apple skins, green beans and cauliflower. Although indigestible, its health purposes are to regulate bowel movements, and it helps prevent diabetes and heart disease. Insoluble fiber is the kind that helps one avoid constipation. Because this fiber absorbs water it balances the bowel and helps with irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that lowers cholesterol, according to researchers, by reducing low-density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol and helps regulate the release of glucose into the blood which helps fight diabetes. Most especially beneficial are: beans, oats and oat bran, and flaxseed. Additionally, water is needed with an increase in fiber. Dietary fiber is not always as pleasing to the taste buds, but it boosts your metabolism and is easiest on the systems of sugar sensitive people. One food can contain an array of carbohydrates, for instance, apple peels are insoluble fiber, the flesh of an apple is soluble fiber, and the fructose, if it’s juice, is a simple sugar.