Difference Between Sugars and Carbohydrates

Sugars and carbohydrates are two kinds of nutrients that are present in food. Like any other nutrient, humans need each of them to survive.

However, these nutrients have gained quite a negative reputation these days. People often fend from them, especially if they come from artificial sources.

However, understanding the difference between them may help know what they really are, and why the body needs them.

Sugars vs Carbohydrates

The main difference between sugars and carbohydrates is that sugar in itself is a soluble carbohydrate that is sweet to taste and is used in many dishes and beverages whereas ‘carbohydrates’ is a broad term that is used for any kind of organic compound that has carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen as its constituents.

Sugars vs Carbohydrates

‘Sugars’ is a category of carbohydrates that is soluble and also sweet tasting. For this purpose, it is often used in various foods to make them taste better.

Sugars can be divided into two major categories. These include simple sugars and compound sugars.

Simple sugars are monosaccharides whereas compound sugars are disaccharides.

Meanwhile, ‘carbohydrates’ is an umbrella term for particular biomolecules that have carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen as their constituents.

However, an important thing to be noted is that there are some carbohydrates that do not conform to this definition but are still called carbohydrates.

Regardless, they are essential for the survival of living beings and have numerous roles in the functioning of the body.

Comparison Table Between Sugars and Carbohydrates

Parameters of ComparisonSugarsCarbohydrates
MeaningThey are a kind of carbohydrate that is soluble in liquids and tastes sweet.The term ‘carbohydrates’ includes any organic compound that has carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen as its constituents.
PropertiesThey are soluble in water and have a sweet taste.They are not soluble in water and have no taste at all.
TypesThey can be divided into simple and compound sugars.They can be divided into two types – simple carbs and complex carbs.
RolesThey make up structures inside which carbohydrates can be stored in the body.They have a primary role in the metabolism of the body.
StructuresThey can be monosaccharides or disaccharides.They can only be polysaccharides.

What is Sugars?

Sugar is a term given to soluble carbohydrates that have certain properties to them. They are soluble in water and taste sweet.

Due to these properties, they are widely used across the world to make food items. 

Sugars can be divided into two broad terms. These include simple sugars and compound sugars.

Simple sugars are monosaccharides which means that they are the most basic unit present inside a carbohydrate. Examples of this include fructose, galactose, and glucose.

Meanwhile, compound sugars refer to one whole molecule that is made by combining two monosaccharides. This is done with the help of a glycosidic bond.

Examples of such types of sugars include maltose, sucrose, and lactose. Long chains that are made by combining two or more monosaccharides is not considered to be some sugar.

Both of these types of sugars have an essential role in the diet of a human being. They provide food energy as well as make many food items taste better.

However, there has been evidence that consuming too much sugar may cause adverse effects such as obesity and even diabetes. Therefore, they must be not taken in high amounts and must be controlled in the diet.

What is Carbohydrates?

‘Carbohydrates’ is a broad term that is used for particular biomolecules that are formed by the combination of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.

However, it must be noted that carbohydrates such as uronic acids, and fucose do not follow this chemical structure and are yet included in the category of this nutrient.

Meanwhile, many chemicals that conform to this structure are not classified as carbohydrates.

Regardless, carbohydrates are always polysaccharides. This means that they are made by the combination of two or more monosaccharides.

Sometimes, some of these monosaccharides are modified. Due to this, they can replace entire groups of other monosaccharides at once.

Examples of these include deoxyribose and chitin.

 These nutrients play a primary role in the metabolism of human beings. Therefore, they are essential for survival.

It is used by the body as an energy source and also in the process of biosynthesis. In many animals, glycogen serves the same purpose whereas starch serves the same purpose in plants.

Most nutritionists across the world divide carbohydrates into categories of simple and complex. However, in reality, the exact distinction between these two groups is very obscure.

This causes a lot of confusion among those who are not familiar with the concept.

Main Differences Between Sugars and Carbohydrates

  1. Sugars are a kind of carbohydrate that is soluble in liquids and tastes sweet whereas the term ‘carbohydrates’ includes any organic compound that has carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen as its constituents.
  2. Sugars are soluble in water and have a sweet taste whereas carbohydrates are not soluble in water and have no taste at all.
  3. Sugars can be divided into simple and compound sugars whereas carbohydrates can be divided into two types – simple carbs and complex carbs.
  4. Sugars make up structures inside which carbohydrates can be stored in the body whereas carbohydrates have a primary role in the metabolism of a body.
  5. Sugars can be monosaccharides, or disaccharides whereas carbohydrates can only be polysaccharides.
Difference Between Sugars and Carbohydrates

Conclusion

Sugars and carbohydrates are related to each other in some ways, but that does not mean they are interchangeable. Each of them has several differences from the other.

Firstly, sugar in itself is a type of carb whereas carbohydrates are particular biomolecules that have carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen as their constituents.

Another major difference is that sugars are always monosaccharides or disaccharides. On the other hand, carbohydrates are always polysaccharides.

Moreover, sugars are soluble in water and sweet-tasting whereas carbohydrates are generally not soluble in liquids and do not have any kind of taste. Other differences between the two lie in their functions and uses in the body.

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/86/5/1495/4754408
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10719-019-09876-0
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