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Definition A large group of sugars, starches, celluloses, and gums that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in similar proportions.
Alternative Names Starches; Simple sugars; Sugars; Complex carbohydrates; Diet - carbohydrates; Simple carbohydrates
Function The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. The body breaks down starches and sugars into a substance called glucose, which is used for energy by the body.
Food Sources Complex carbohydrates are a good source of minerals, vitamins , and fiber . They are starches found in:
  • breads
  • cereals
  • starchy vegetables
  • legumes
  • rice
  • pastas
  • Simple carbohydrates also contain vitamins and minerals. They naturally occur in:
  • fruits
  • milk and milk products
  • vegetables
  • Simple carbohydrates are also found in processed and refined sugars such as:
  • candy
  • table sugar
  • syrups (not including natural syrups such as maple)
  • regular carbonated beverages
  • Refined sugars provide calories, but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
    Side Effects Excessive carbohydrates can cause an increase in the total caloric intake, causing obesity . Deficient carbohydrates can cause a lack of calories ( malnutrition ), or excessive intake of fats to make up the calories.
    Recommendations It is recommended that somewhere between 40 to 60% of our total calories come from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars rather than processed or refined sugars. High-sugar foods are simple carbohydrates that provide calories, but minimal nutritional benefits. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates provide calories, vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Therefore, it is wise to limit processed and refined sugars. To increase complex carbohydrates:
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat more whole grains, rice, breads and cereals.
  • Eat more beans, lentils, and dried peas.
  • Here are recommended serving sizes for foods high in carbohydrate:
  • vegetables: 1 cup of raw vegetables, or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
  • fruits: 1 medium size fruit (such as 1 medium apple or 1 medium orange), 1/2 cup of a canned or chopped fruit, or 3/4 cup of fruit juice
  • breads and cereals: 1 slice of bread; 1 ounce or 2/3 cup of ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, lentils, or dried peas
  • dairy: 1 cup of skim or lowfat milk
  • For information about how many servings are recommended see the food guide pyramid . Here is a sample 2,000 Calorie menu of which 50 to 60% of its total calories are from carbohydrates:
  • breakfast
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened cereal, with 1/2 sliced banana
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1 slice of whole wheat toast
  • 1 teaspoon of margarine
  • 1 teaspoon of jelly
  • coffee
  • or tea
  • lunch
  • turkey pita pocket sandwich (2 slices of whole wheat pita bread, 3 ounces of lean turkey breast )
  • 1/2 cup of shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of green peppers
  • 1 tablespoon of salad dressing
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 2 fresh medium-sized peaches
  • dinner
  • 4 ounces of broiled salmon with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and sprinkled with paprika
  • 1 cup of pasta
  • 1 dinner roll
  • 6 steamed broccoli stalks with sprinkled black pepper
  • salad:
  • 1 cup lettuce
  • 1/4 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of sliced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of sliced carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of salad dressing
  • 1/2 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries, sweetened with 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1-inch slice of angel food cake
  • 1 cup of skim milk

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