Carbohydrates are categorized into two groups: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are your typically simple sugars found in honey, soft drinks, candy, table sugar, corn syrup and pretty much anything sweet that you know is bad for you to have in large amounts. These types of carbohydrates are:
- fast digesting
- made of only 1 or 2 sugar molecules
- are a quick source of energy
Complex carbohydrates, which can be found in whole grain breads, sweet potatoes, beans, and green vegetables, can also be known as dietary starches that are composed of several sugar molecules that are strung together in a more ‘complex’ fashion. Some attributes of complex carbs are:
- usually high in fiber
- often high in vitamins and minerals
- slow digesting therefore more satisfying to the appetite
When sugar (carbohydrates) are heated, the molecules separate and melt into a thick syrup. The viscosity is determined by how high the heat is applied to the sugar. With low temperatures of 320 degrees F, the sugar begins to melt is much more sticky than at the high heats where the syrup is more fluid. The browning process, or caramelization, of sugar changes the color from a clear to light yellow becoming more and more of a dark brown color.
Dietary starch is a complex carbohydrate that has thickening properties used in various foods. When mixed with water or another form of liquid and heated, the interlocking sugar molecules absorb liquid and swell. This is called gelatinization and causes a liquid to thicken. Different types of starches gelatinize at various temperatures. Root-based starches, such as potatoes, thicken at lower temperatures but break down faster than cereal or grain-based starches, like wheat and corn, which thicken at high temperatures but break down slower.
Examples of Gelatinization
1) Jello, pudding and custards
2) soups (e.g. roux of gumbo)
3) jams and jellies
4) chewy candy