Carbohydrates are important because they are the body's primary source of energy. They are naturally found in fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy products and their derivative food products. The body utilizes these foods to make glucose for fuel.
Sugar, starch and fiber make up the three main types of carbohydrates. Sugars are the simplest form of carbohydrates and can be found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and milk or milk products. The body converts simple sugars into glucose almost immediately, providing a quick boost of energy.
Starches are made up of long chains of simple sugars and are known as complex carbohydrates. They are found in vegetables, grains, beans and seeds. They take longer to digest, and provide a sustained source of energy for the body.
Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. It's the part of a plant that isn't digested in the stomach. Instead, it passes through the digestive tract unchanged. Fiber can be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber doesn't. Soluble fiber slows down digestion. It helps suppress hunger and can be helpful in weight loss. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the diet and acts as a laxative, preventing constipation. Adults should consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily.