Fast facts about energy nutrients, part two (Carbs!)

Fast facts about energy nutrients, part two (Carbs!)


By Tamalynn Kirby/School District 51 Nutritionist



This is the second in a three-part series that will give you nutrient information on protein, carbohydrates and fat.


Calories: 4 calories per gram

Major functions:

  • Provides energy and is the body’s preferred energy source.
  • Supplies brain and central nervous system with energy.
  • Provides dietary fiber. Dietary fiber and starch contribute to satiety.

Types:  Simple sugars are found in fruits and milk and are added to foods during processing or preparation.

Did You Know?

  1. All carbohydrates are made of different combinations of sugar units. Simple sugars, such as table sugar (sucrose) or sugar in milk (lactose) have two sugar units linked together. The body can easily break the bond between the two sugar units. Simple sugars digest quickly and provide a quick energy source.
  2. The complex carbohydrate starch is made of many sugar units linked together. The body needs more time to break the bonds between chains of sugar units. Starch digests more slowly and provides a sustained energy source.
  3. Carbohydrates are linked to dental caries and cavities.  Carbohydrates (simple and complex) start to digest in the mouth. The bacteria in the mouth eat the sugars and produce acid, which contributes to tooth decay. Brushing teeth after meals and snacks helps prevent cavitites.

Food sources:

Simple sugars: Milk, fruits, honey, refined white or brown sugars, high fructose corn syrup and other processed sugars.

Starch: Whole grains, vegetables, dried peas and beans. 

Dietary fiber: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried peas and beans, nuts and seeds.

Can the body store this nutrient?

The body can store a limited amount of carbohydrates in the muscles and the liver. Excess dietary carbohydrates is converted to fat for storage.

Tamalynn Kirby is a nutritionist for School District 51.


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