Carbohydrates typically comprise a large amount of a person’s diet. Carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods, including fruits, bread, potatoes and pasta. Carbohydrates are commonly known for boosting a person’s energy, which is why athletes consume high amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods before they compete. To know more about carbohydrates, it is helpful to take a look at its characteristics.
According to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, fiber is a characteristic of carbohydrates. Fiber is not digestible by humans and most fiber is in the form of carbohydrates. Fiber is either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a viscous solution, whereas insoluble fibers do not dissolve and occupy the intestinal tract. Soluble fiber typically includes pectins, gums and mucilages and insoluble fiber is found in lignin and cellulose.
Simple sugars are another characteristic of carbohydrates. Also called monosaccharides, simple sugars include fructose, glucose and galactose. Fructose is often found in fruit, whereas galactose is found in milk. Both are converted to glucose by the liver. Glucose is the body’s energy source. When simple sugars are formed together, they become disaccharides. Lactose, maltose and sucrose are examples of disaccharides. Maltose is typically found in grains, whereas sucrose can be stored in fruits and vegetables and lactose in milk.
Carbohydrates also are characterized by the presence of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are composed of chains of sugar linked together. Amylose is a common sugar found in complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrate chains have branches on them as well, which slow down digestion. If complex carbohydrate chains are hydrolyzed and produce chains that are between two and 10 units long, they are referred to as oligosaccharides. If 11 or more units are produced, the chain is called a polysaccharide.