Carbohydrates are a group of organic compounds that provide the body with energy that comes from digestible carbohydrates. Starches that are indigestible provide the body with roughage or fibre that is needed so digestion is healthy. Consumption of dietary fibre is beneficial and provides nutrition, helps to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes and constipation.
Besides being an important source of energy and dietary fibre carbohydrates are important for the processing industry as their presence adds sweetness, appearance and texture to foods. It is for this reason that that food testing for carbohydrates is carried out in food labs so processed foods can have the right concentration of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are present sometimes as isolated molecules and are physically associated or chemically bound to other molecules. Individual molecules are classified according to the number of monomers that they contain and are known as
- Monosaccharaidesare simple sugars like glucose and fructose that provide energy
- Oligosaccharidesare composed of two monosaccharaides joined together. Table sugar or sucrose is an example and it is composed of one glucose and one fructose molecule
- Polysaccharides are long chains of monosaccharaides bond together. Plants store excess glucose in the form of starch so a polysaccharide is composed of long chains of glucose. These starches can be found in potatoes, rice, wheat, corn, bananas, peas, beans, lentils, and other tubers, seeds and fruits of plants.Cellulose and chitin are also examples of polysaccharides
Molecules in which the carbohydrates are covalently attached to proteins are known as glycoproteins, whereas those in which the carbohydrates are covalently attached to lipids are known as glycolipids.
Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids are essential components of a healthy diet. Scientists have designed food testing methods to determine the presence of these nutrients in food. This information may help to maintain a balanced intake of foods. There are a number of analytical techniques that are used to measure the total concentration and type of carbohydrates present in foods. Unless the testing laboratory has the technical skills and equipment the analysis can be inaccurate.
Routine carbohydrate food testing is used to find the presence of carbohydrates like monosaccharaides, oligosaccharides, sugar alcohol, and starches. Certain testing laboratories also carry out dietary fibre testing to ascertain the exact weight of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre and prebiotics. Food labs can also test foods for different types of fibres present in foods.
For the food processing industry it is important to carry out food testing of carbohydrates for the nutritional analysis by a NABL certified and FSSAI approved testing laboratory. This will ensure that food manufacturers are in compliance with government regulations. Since carbohydrates are an important source of nutrition the exact concentrations are required for nutritional labelling. Food testing for carbohydrates is also required as these are determinants of food quality since appearance, texture, sweetness and stability of the foods depends on the concentrations of carbohydrates. Therefore, processed foods like bread, cooked noodles, crackers, corn chips, table sugar, apples, flour, corn starch etc. are routinely tested in food labs.