Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates
All carbohydrates are loosely defined groups of molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen with the molar ratio of 1:2:1. The common empirical formula for all carbohydrates is (CH2O) n, in which “n” is the number of carbon atoms. Carbohydrates are categorized under macronutrients that are essential in every balanced diet. Protein and fat are the other macronutrients which are capable of creating body tissues and insulation. Carbohydrates act as an energy source and provide calories that are essential for the production of energy. Carbohydrates contain (C-H) bonds which are responsible for producing energy by oxidation. This oxidation energy is helpful to initiate normal body functions such as muscle contraction, heartbeat, digestion, breathing, nerve conduction and brain functions in many living organisms. Carbohydrates provide more than 60% of energy which is required by the body. Carbohydrates are widely categorized into two main categories according to their chemical structures; namely, simple carbohydrate and complex carbohydrate.
What are Simple Carbohydrates?
Simple carbohydrates are considered as the simple sugars which contain a few carbon atoms. There are two types of simple carbohydrates, namely; monosaccarides and disaccharides. The empirical formula for monosaccharide is C6H12O6 or (CH2O) 6. There are three main types of monosaccharides, namely 3-carbon sugars, 5-carbon sugars, and 6- carbon sugars. Glyceraldehyde is the example for 3- carbon sugar. Ribose and deoxyribose are the 5-carbon sugars (components of nucleic acid). Six- carbon sugars are the glucose, fructose, and galactose and they can exist as a straight chain or as a ring (in an aqueous environment).
Glucose is the important energy storage monosaccharide as it acts as the building block of certain main and complex carbohydrates. Disaccharides have two chemically linked monosaccharide molecules. In many organisms, monosaccharides are converted into disaccharides before they are moved from one place to another. Therefore, it is less rapidly metabolized during the transport; thus, disaccharides are considered as the transport form of sugars. These disaccharides come in three forms; namely, lactose, maltose, and sucrose.
What are Complex Carbohydrates?
Complex carbohydrates contain three or more monosaccharide molecules which are chemically linked via dehydration reactions. They are mainly divided into two sub categories; oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Oligosaccharides are comparatively small molecules with 3 to 10 monosaccharides. They are important to absorb certain minerals and to form fatty acids.
Polysaccharides often contain a large number of monosaccharides and disaccharides. Cellulose, starch, and glycogen are the well-known examples for polysaccharides.
What is the difference between Simple and Complex Carbohydrates?
- Simple carbohydrates are often used as building blocks of larger, complex carbohydrates.
- The empirical structure of simple carbohydrate is C6H12O6 or (CH2O) 6 while that of complex carbohydrate is (C6H10O5) n, in which “n” is the number of monomer units.
- The molecular weight of complex carbohydrates is much higher than that of simple carbohydrates.
- Simple carbohydrates have very simple chemical structures and are made of small molecules. Complex carbohydrates have very complex structures while the molecules are large, unlike simple carbohydrates.
- Unlike simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates are rich in vitamins, fibers, and minerals due to their complex structure.
- Due to the complex structures of complex carbohydrates, they take more time to digest (digestion is not easy), and the blood sugar level raising is quite slow. In contrast, simple carbohydrates can quickly digest (easy to digest) and increase blood sugar level very rapidly due to their simple structures.
- Food containing simple carbohydrates includes table sugar, honey, milk, fruits, molasses etc. Complex carbohydrates are found in many vegetables and cereals.
- Complex carbohydrates normally have a higher nutrient value than simple carbohydrates.
- Simple carbohydrates are found as transport form of sugars while complex carbohydrates are found as either energy storage sources (starch) or structural components (Cellulose).