Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. There are three different kinds of carbohydrates. They include starch, sugar, and fiber. Starch is made from chains of small sugars. When these chains are broken down during digestion, we get energy. We get 4 calories from each gram of starch (or sugar). We do not get calories from fiber because our bodies do not break fiber down during digestion.

Plant foods like cereals, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, plantains and corn are good sources of starch. They give us the energy we need to do daily activities. These starchy foods give us important vitamins and minerals, too.

Because carbohydrate-rich foods are usually low in calories, they can help us keep a healthy weight. When we add fat (like butter, sour cream or gravies) at the table or when we cook , we add extra calories and may gain weight. Try using less mayonnaise, butter or margarine on breads and muffins. Use less gravy or sour cream on potatoes. When we shop we can get the carbohydrates we need without added fat by reading food labels. Compare crackers and bread products and try the ones with less fat. Use more vegetables without fatty sauces.

To find out about carbohydrates you need each day, go to "Ask the Nutritionist".

To find out more about the other carbohydrates, read the information files: Sugars and/or Fiber.

To test what you know about carbohydrates, take the Quiz on Carbohydrates.

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