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All carbohydrates convert into the simplest type of sugar.
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Carbohydrates are your body's main energy source and the preferred type of fuel for your brain cells. Generally, carbohydrates fit in to one of two categories: Simple or complex. Simple carbs are sugars that digest rather quickly, while complex carbohydrates are branched molecules that take longer to break down. Although they are each processed differently in your system, they do have some similarities.
All carbs -- a combination of simple and complex -- need to make up 45 to 65 percent of your total calories, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Plus, all carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. So if 1,800 calories daily is typical for you, you'll need 810 to 1,170 calories from carbohydrates, or 202 to 292 grams per day.
No matter which type of carb you have, they all eventually turn into glucose for energy. Sugars convert in one step in your small intestine. Enzymes turn sucrose, dextrose, lactose and other sugars into glucose and fructose. These are the simplest types of sugars that fuel all of your cells, explains the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Starches undergo a couple of different steps before transforming into glucose. When you chew, saliva starts breaking down complex starch molecules, turning them into maltose, a type of sugar. Once the maltose compounds hit your gut, enzymatic juices convert them into glucose for energy. When all the conversions of sugars and starches are complete, glucose enters your bloodstream after absorbing through intestinal walls.
Effect on Blood Sugar
Carbs also share the ability to affect your blood sugar levels, because of the glucose absorbed into your bloodstream after digestion. However, different carbs have different effects. Sugars -- like table sugar -- and foods made with refined flour tend to increase your blood sugar levels faster after a meal, while whole grains and other carbs high in fiber tend to have less pronounced effects.
Fiber is The Exception
The only type of carbohydrate that has its own separate characteristics is fiber. While fiber is indeed a complex carbohydrate, your body cannot break it down. Fiber travels through your gut, intact for the most part, and aids in digestive processes. But it doesn't contribute any calories to your diet, nor does it ever change into glucose. Because fiber acts differently than any other type of carb, it has its own recommendation. You need 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you have in your diet, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states. If you follow an 1,800-calorie diet, for example, you'll need 25 grams of fiber each day.