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Carbohydrates are sugars that provide the human body with energy when they are broken down.

There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include the sugars fructose, sucrose and lactose. They are a source of quick energy and have a sweet flavor. Complex carbohydrates include starches and fiber. They are present in potatoes, rice, cereals, grains, etc.

The American Heart Association recommends that the intake of carbohydrates come primarily from complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, grains) instead of simple carbohydrates (sugars). Complex carbs are lower in calories, saturated fats and cholesterol than simple carbs.

When trying to lose weight, many people cut down on all carbohydrates when they should be worrying about the quality of carbs instead of the quantity. It is recommended to avoid processed foods because they contain many simple carbs. Complex carbs are low in fat and provide high amounts on necessary nutrients such as fiber. For example, it is better to eat whole grain breads instead of white breads that are made with processed white flour.

The body needs some carbohydrates to function properly and getting too little can cause fatigue, muscle cramps and poor mental function.

Sources of Complex Carbs:

· Starches - Flour, bread, rice, corn, oats, barley, potatoes, legumes, fruits and vegetables
· Fiber - Insoluble: whole-wheat breads and cereals, wheat bran, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin (pectin)
· Fiber - Soluble: oat bran, oats, legumes, citrus fruits, strawberries, apple pulp, psyllium, rice bran and barley

Sources of Simple Carbs:

· Sucrose - Table sugar, brown sugar, confectioners sugar, raw sugar and turbinado
· Glucose - Dextrose, corn syrup and glucose syrup
· Fructose - Fruits, vegetables and honey
· High fructose corn syrup - Liquid sweetener that contains 42-90 percent fructose
· Honey - Made up of glucose, fructose and water
· Sugar alcohols - Sorbitol, mannitol, xybitol
· Lactose - milk and milk products
· Maltose, dextrose - cereals and some baked goods

How I can evaluate the carbohydrate contents of my diet?

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