Food carbohydrates consist of mono-, di-, oligo- and polysaccharides, the latter composed of starch and non-starch polysaccharides (NSP). The glycaemic response to both sugars and starches is dependent on the types of sugars present and the form of the starches, and ‘complex carbohydrates’ do not necessarily produce slower or lower glycaemic responses than the sugars. Carbohydrates not absorbed in the small intestine are fermented more or less extensively by the large intestinal microflora. There is a fundamental difference nutritionally between digestible and undigestible (‘unavailable’) carbohydrates. NSP, resistant starch (RS) and oligosaccharides are the main forms of undigestible carbohydrates. Dietary fibre is generally conceived as more or less synonymous with ‘unavailable’ carbohydrates. The nutritional effects of dietary fibre are related to its undigestibility in the small intestine, and to the physical and chemical properties of its constituent polysaccharides. Food structures built of dietary fibre as plant cell-walls, and also of other food components, are increasingly recognized as nutritionally important. Food databases should include as much specific and detailed information as possible on food carbohydrates. For food labelling, carbohydrates have to be divided into a number of nutritionally meaningful classes. A first classification should then aim at differentiating the digestible and undigestible carbohydrates, i.e. dietary fibre.
Food Chemistry – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 1996
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