Carbohydrates are the basic source of energy for most living organisms. They are an organic compound made up of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. Carbohydrates are also called saccharides, that are divided into four major groups, namely, monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. Amongst these major groups, monosaccharides and disaccharides like lactose, glucose, sucrose, and fructose, are referred to as sugars. Carbohydrates are involved in maintaining and regulating the functions of the human central nervous system, activating protein functions and fiber absorption, and providing the energy which is required to perform the daily chores. Carbohydrates are one of the building blocks of the body, that interact with molecules of other organic compounds like fats, proteins and nucleic acids, for proper functioning of a healthy human body. In the following section of the article, we will try to learn more about the basic structure of carbohydrates and their major health effects.
To answer the above question in a single line, one can say that monosaccharides are the building blocks of carbohydrates. A building block is nothing but the unit of a particular thing. In other words, carbohydrates are made up of chains of monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are small molecules and the most basic unit of all the types of carbohydrates. A monosaccharide is a colorless and water-soluble crystal, which is the simplest form of sugar. Latin words mono means single and sacchar means sugar. It means, monosaccharides contain a single molecule of sugars or saccharides. Dextrose, glucose, fructose, galactose, ribose, xylose, etc., are monosaccharides that make simple carbohydrates. All the other types of carbohydrates like disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, are made up of two, three and more molecules of sugar. It also suggests that they are made up of many monosaccharides. Hence, monosaccharides are referred as the building blocks or the basic unit of carbohydrates. It is important to understand here that monosaccharides are the building blocks of all sorts of carbohydrates.
Since various bonds of monosaccharides determine the properties and benefits of the carbohydrates for the human body; we need to determine the most beneficial bondage of monosaccharides. In other words, consuming the healthiest form of monosaccharides (which is polysaccharides), is extremely important. In case you are not aware, let me tell you that the digestive approach of the body differs for different types of carbohydrates. As we eat carbohydrate rich foods, the digestive system breaks them down into simple forms to make them easily digestible. This approach is again determined on the basis of molecular structure of the carbohydrates. There are two basic groups of carbohydrates - simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates contain single monosaccharide molecules, while complex carbohydrates contain chains of monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are called the building blocks because they can't be further processed (either catalyzed or hydrolyzed) by the body for their total absorption. So if you eat foods that contain simple carbohydrates (single monosaccharides), they get easily broken down and utilized. But if you eat complex carbohydrates, then the system takes more time to break them and make them digestible.
Now, can you guess which are the healthiest carbohydrates? To answer this question, you can take the following example. You see, when a person consumes cake, candy, white bread sandwich, etc., simple carbs or refined carbohydrates, his body responds to them quickly. Since these foods contain monosaccharides, they are easily broken down and utilized as an energy source. However, fast digestion of monosaccharides increase the blood glucose and insulin levels. Increased consumption of monosaccharides rich foods invite various health conditions like obesity and diabetes. On the other hand, if a person eats fruits like bananas, apples, strawberries, beans, potatoes, and such complex carbohydrates; his body takes more time to break down the polysaccharides that are present in them. This process of slow digestion also keeps him satiated for a longer period of time, and this fact favors the health condition of that person. Since the person is eating more complex carbohydrates, he feels less hungry, which causes him to eat less food, and thus control weight. So, although monosaccharides are the building blocks of carbohydrates, they should be consumed in a controlled manner.
Well then, as you can see, monosaccharides, which is the most basic unit of carbohydrates, is responsible for the determination of your health condition. If you want to stay healthy and hearty, limit simple carbohydrates and consume complex carbohydrates!