Sugars vs Carbohydrates: Difference and Comparison

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 fend for them, especially if they come from artificial sources.

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

Key Takeaways

  1. Sugars are simple carbohydrates, while carbohydrates are more complex compounds.
  2. Sugars are sweeter and more soluble than carbohydrates.
  3. Carbohydrates are a primary energy source for the body, while sugars are a quick energy source.

Sugars vs Carbohydrates

Sugars are simple carbohydrates, which are molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Carbohydrates are a broader category of macronutrients, including simple and complex carbohydrates, which provide more nutrients and fibre and are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

Sugars vs Carbohydrates
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‘Sugars’ is a category of carbohydrate that is soluble and sweet tasting. For this purpose, various foods use it 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 with carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen constituents.

However, an important thing to note is that some carbohydrates 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

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 with certain properties. 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 are 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 not be taken in high amounts and must be controlled in the diet.

sugar food

What is Carbohydrates?

‘Carbohydrates’ is a broad term used for particular biomolecules 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 the combination makes them 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.

The body uses it as an energy source and in the biosynthesis process. 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, 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.

carbohydrates

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
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

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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