Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body. They also help break down fats, and they combine with proteins to fight off infections and support the health of the skin, nails and bones. Carbohydrates are starches and sugars.
Carbohydrates are easier for the body to break down than proteins, because digestion of carbohydrates begins in the mouth. Saliva breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, which is the main fuel the body needs.
There are two basic categories of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are single or double molecules found in table sugar. These type of carbohydrates include glucose and fructose, which is the sugar found in fruit, and lactose, which is found in milk. They are good for providing quick bursts of energy because they're already in a simple state. Sugars found naturally in fruits are the best type of simple carbohydrate because they also contain vitamins and minerals.
Complex carbohydrates are starches. They're usually found in fruits, beans, vegetables and grains. Starches are huge molecules made of sugars attached to each other in long chains. Because of this, it takes the body longer to digest complex carbohydrates. They also provide the body with fiber, which slows down digestion, relieves constipation, lowers levels of "bad" cholesterol, and protects against colon and breast cancers.