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What are carbohydrates ?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients in our diet (fat and protein being the others). They represent the most important source of energy for the body. Carbohydrates are vital for a varied and balanced diet.

Amongst the digestible carbohydrates, we distinguish between:

  • Sugars, which are also called ‘simple carbohydrates’ as they are composed of only one or two sugar units. They include glucose, fructose (from fruit), sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (from milk)
  • Starches, often called ‘complex carbohydrates’ as they are composed of many glucose units linked together. They are mainly found in grain foods such as bread, pasta and rice, and tuber vegetables such as potatoes.

Non-digestible carbohydrates are referred to fibres.

Note: In the US, the term ‘carbohydrates’ usually refers to both digestible and non-digestible carbohydrates (fibres) while in Europe the term only refers to digestible carbohydrates.