Difference Between Sugar and Carbohydrates

Whether you are a diet freak or not, the terms sugar and carbohydrates must be familiar to you. Both these elements are extremely important for you to maintain a healthy diet and without these nutrients, human body cannot remain fit and healthy.

Carbohydrates play the most critical role as they provide energy to the body. They can be defined as little organic compounds that contain different elements such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. People often get confused between carbohydrates and sugar, deeming them to be the same even though they are not.

The major reason for confusion is nomenclature, as sugar is one of the simplest carbohydrates.

While sugar does not have a complex structure, carbohydrates do. However, the function of both these elements is to provide energy to the body.

The chemical formulas for both these elements are different. While sugar’s formula is C (H2O) y (y: three or more H2O’s), the formula for a complex carbohydrate is Cx (H2O) y (y: three or more H2O’s).

In a nutshell, carbohydrates with a simple structure are sugars, but the ones with a complex structure are known as starches.


  • 1


    Sugar, in easy terms, is a simple carbohydrate. Once you are categorizing simple carbohydrates, their names end with the ‘-ose’ suffix. For example, blood sugar is known as monosaccharide glucose in medical science. Similarly, medical experts call milk sugar as disaccharide lactose. Other examples include disaccharide sucrose, which is the medical term for the sugar which human beings consume in their daily regime. With a simple structure, sugar is easy to consume for the human body and that is why it does not take much time for the digestive system to absorb it.

    Image Courtesy: 3dchem.com

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    Carbohydrates can be divided into four simple groups: Monosaccharide, Disaccharides, Oligosaccharides and Polysaccharides. Out of these four, the first two, Monosaccharide and Disaccharides, are considered to be simple carbohydrates. Sugar falls under the category of these two groups of carbohydrates. On the other hand, the other two groups, Oligosaccharides and Polysaccharides, can be referred as starches. The human body requires a lot of time in order to break these two complex groups down in order to convert them into energy. These two complex groups consist of more than three sugars at the same time.

    Image Courtesy: scientificpsychic.com

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