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Know Everything About Carbohydrates & Its Food Sources

By Riddhi Parmar +2 more

You must have heard the term “carbohydrates” before, but ever wondered what is a carbohydrate? What do carbohydrates do? Or How to include carbohydrate-rich food in your diet? All of these problems seem relatively simple, but for many people, they can be very troublesome. Because, just like nutrition, there are many controversies (and misunderstandings) about carbohydrates.

What are Carbohydrates? 

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (except fat and protein) that our body uses for energy absorption. Each gram of carbohydrate provides your body with four calories. All carbohydrates are mainly sugar molecules, and there are two main types: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. 

Carbohydrates include sugars with the most basic molecular structure: monosaccharides and disaccharides. Some examples include fructose (found in fruits), lactose (found in milk), and sucrose (found in sugar). Complex carbohydrates are three or more simple sugars linked together and have a more complex molecular structure. These include starch (found in wheat and potatoes) and fibre (found in vegetables, seeds and brown rice). 

When processing whole grains and removing their outer layer or bran, refined carbohydrates (such as white rice and white flour) act more like simple carbohydrates in your body.

Types of Carbohydrates:

Let’s understand the types of carbohydrates to understand which one is healthier and should be included in your diet

Types of Carbohydrates:

Let’s understand the types of carbohydrates to understand which one is healthier and should be included in your diet:

Simple Carbohydrates:

Do you wonder what simple carbohydrates are? Simple carbohydrates are made using only one sugar unit or commonly known as monosaccharides and 2 sugar units or commonly known as disaccharides. Simple carbs are very fast in digestion and thus responsible for spiking your blood sugar levels. Simple carbs include lactose, fructose, sucrose, glucose, and maltose. The sources mainly include table sugar, candy, honey, and syrups. Since they digest quickly, they provide instant energy.

Complex carbohydrates:

What is a complex carbohydrates, you ask? Complex carbohydrates contain at least three sugars; oligosaccharides contain three to ten simple sugar units; polysaccharides can contain hundreds of sugars; complex carbohydrates,  such as beans, whole grains, starchy vegetables, pasta, and bread, provide relatively long-lasting energy for the human body. Since complex carbs take time to digest, they can help control your blood sugar levels.

Did you know?

  • Carbohydrates provide glucose, the main energy source for the brain and central nervous system.Source: ncbi
  • Carbohydrates can contribute to dental caries by providing substrate for bacterial fermentation in the mouth. Source: ncbi
  • Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for active people. Source: diabetes.org
  • Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk, and milk products are major food sources of carbohydrates. Source: ncbi

Food Sources of Carbohydrates

If you are looking for healthy carbohydrate foods, incorporating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk, and dairy products can be the main carbohydrate food sources.Grains and some vegetables (such as corn and potatoes) have a high starch content, while sweet potatoes have a higher sucrose content than starch. Dark green fruits and vegetables contain little or no starch but contain sugar and fibre.  

Choose high-fibre foods as much as possible, such as whole grains and pieces of bread, beans, vegetables, and fruits. Generally, vegetables and fruits are not the most concentrated sources. Fibre, but they are important foods that need to be promoted because they contain important micronutrients. Similarly, milk and dairy products that contain lactose usually do not contain fibre, but they are also an important food source of carbohydrates because foods high in carbohydrate contain calcium, vitamin D, and protein in the diet.

I imply focusing on getting most of your carbohydrates from whole grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables rather than relying on refined grains. When choosing grains, be sure to look for products that have the ‘whole grain’ label. This way, you may easily identify and enjoy the benefits of the fibre and nutrients that come from consuming whole grains.

Dr. Smita barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

Also Read: Unlocking The Health Benefits Of Purple Potatoes

Health Benefits of Carbohydrates

  • Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy.
  • Helps nourish the brain, kidneys, heart muscles, and central nervous system.  
  • Fibre is a carbohydrate that helps digestion, helps you feel full, and controls blood cholesterol levels.
  • If you don’t have enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will store more carbohydrates in your muscles and liver. A low-carbohydrate diet can cause headaches, fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation, bad breath, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • Good carbs, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain plenty of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is good to maintain bowel movements. That means you are less likely to feel bloated because your body constantly and efficiently eliminates waste on a regular basis.
  • Whole foods carbs like fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and whole grains – in short, all food items that include B vitamins help to increase serotonin in the body, thus making you happier.
  • Oatmeal, nuts, apples and blueberries are rich in soluble fibre. Soluble fibre is essential in reducing spiked-up blood sugar levels and lowering LDL cholesterol.
  • Carbohydrates increase insulin levels, which in turn increase tryptophan and boost serotonin production. By countering the hyperactivation of energizing hypocretin neurons, serotonin ensures restful sleep.

I would propose incorporating legumes like peas into your diet as they might be a great source of carbohydrates. These nutritious foods may provide a steady release of energy and might be a healthy addition to your meals.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Also Read: The Lifespan of Potatoes: How Long Does Potatoes Last?

How Does Carbohydrates Work In Your Body?

When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into simple sugars, which are absorbed by the blood. When the sugar level in your body rises, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is very important for removing sugar from the blood in the cells where sugar can be used as energy. If this process proceeds as quickly as with simple sugar, you may soon feel hungry. If the progress is slow like rectifying food, you will feel full longer. 

I would encourage considering quinoa as another good option. It is a nutty-flavoured grain that may offer a good source of carbohydrates for energy. Not only that but it might also deliver a range of other essential nutrients.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

These types of complex carbohydrates will keep you energetic for a long time. The carbohydrates in certain foods (mostly foods with many simple sugars) can cause your blood sugar to rise faster than other foods.  Scientists have been investigating whether the carbohydrates in foods that cause a sharp rise in blood sugar may be related to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. By limiting simple sugars (such as candy) and eating more complex carbohydrates 

Read more about: What To Do Before, During And After Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are carbohydrates a source of?

Carbohydrates serve as a primary source of energy for the body, fueling various physiological functions and activities. They are essential for maintaining overall health and supporting proper brain function.

Are carbohydrates good for weight loss?

Carbohydrates can be part of a balanced weight loss diet when consumed in moderation, focusing on complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, excessive intake of refined carbohydrates may contribute to weight gain.Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial for personalized advice.

Are carbohydrates energy giving food?

Certainly, carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for the body. When consumed, they are broken down into glucose, which serves as the main fuel for various physiological processes, supporting overall energy needs.

Are carbohydrates body building food?

While carbohydrates are not typically considered bodybuilding food, they play a crucial role in providing energy for workouts and supporting muscle recovery. Protein is the primary nutrient associated with muscle building, but carbohydrates contribute to overall energy needs during physical activities.

Are carbohydrates fats?

No, carbohydrates and fats are distinct macronutrients. Carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, primarily provide energy, while fats are a concentrated energy source with different chemical structures. Both are essential for a balanced diet, but they serve different physiological roles in the body.

Are carbohydrates bad for you?

Carbohydrates are not inherently bad for you; the key lies in choosing the right types and consuming them in moderation. Opting for whole grains, fruits, and vegetables over refined carbohydrates can contribute to a balanced and healthy diet.

Can carbohydrate make you fat?

Consuming excess carbohydrates, especially refined and simple sugars, can contribute to weight gain if overall caloric intake exceeds energy expenditure. However, balanced intake of complex carbohydrates as part of a well-rounded diet is not inherently fattening and can be a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle.However, Consulting with a healthcare professional can help determine an individualized approach.

Can carbohydrate increase weight?

Consuming excess carbohydrates, especially refined sugars and processed foods, can contribute to weight gain if the overall caloric intake exceeds energy expenditure. A balanced approach to carbohydrate consumption within one’s daily calorie needs is essential for weight management.

Can carbohydrate increase blood sugar?

Yes, carbohydrates can increase blood sugar levels, especially simple carbohydrates like sugar.
However, consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial for managing blood sugar levels, as carbohydrates, particularly simple sugars, can impact blood glucose.  

Can carbohydrate cause diabetes?

Carbohydrate consumption alone does not directly cause diabetes. However, an unhealthy diet high in refined carbohydrates, coupled with other lifestyle factors, can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Regular medical check-ups and a balanced diet are essential for diabetes prevention.

Can carbohydrates be converted to protein?

The conversion of carbohydrates to proteins is not a direct process in the human body. While the body can convert some amino acids from the breakdown of carbohydrates, the primary source of protein synthesis is dietary protein intake.

Can carbohydrates help build muscle?

Carbohydrates indirectly support muscle building by providing essential energy for workouts and aiding in muscle recovery. However, the primary nutrient associated with muscle development is protein, so a balanced diet that includes both carbohydrates and protein is crucial for effective muscle building.

Can carbohydrates cause acne?

While individual responses vary, there’s limited evidence linking high-glycemic diets, including refined carbohydrates, to increased acne risk. Maintaining a balanced diet and overall skincare practices play important roles in skin health.

Is carbohydrates present in milk?

Yes, milk contains carbohydrates, primarily in the form of lactose, a natural sugar. Lactose is composed of glucose and galactose and contributes to the overall carbohydrate content in dairy products.

What is a carbohydrate?

A carbohydrate is an organic compound composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, serving as a crucial source of energy for the body. It includes sugars, starches, and fibers, commonly found in foods such as fruits, grains, and vegetables.

What do carbohydrates do?

Carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source for the body, providing fuel for various physiological processes. They play a crucial role in supporting brain function, physical activity, and overall metabolic functions.

Is glucose a carbohydrate?

Yes, glucose is a type of carbohydrate and is considered a simple sugar. It is a fundamental source of energy for the body’s cells and is a key component of the broader category of carbohydrates.

Is starch a carbohydrate?

Yes, starch is a type of carbohydrate. It is a complex polysaccharide composed of glucose units and serves as a storage form of energy in plants.

Is sugar a carbohydrate?

Yes, sugar is a type of carbohydrate. It falls into the category of simple carbohydrates and includes various forms such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose, providing a quick source of energy.

Is cellulose a carbohydrate?

Yes, cellulose is a carbohydrate and a type of complex polysaccharide found in the cell walls of plants. It provides structural support to plant cells and is classified as a dietary fiber when consumed in the human diet.

Is fiber a carbohydrate?

Yes, fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. It includes soluble and insoluble forms and plays a crucial role in digestive health, despite being indigestible by the human body.

Is oatmeal low in carbohydrates?

Oatmeal is considered a moderate-carbohydrate food. While it contains carbohydrates, the complex nature of these carbs, including fiber, provides sustained energy and may contribute to a feeling of fullness, making it a nutritious choice within a balanced diet.

Why are carbohydrates important?

Carbohydrates are crucial for providing the body with a primary source of energy, fueling essential metabolic processes and physical activities. They also play a vital role in supporting brain function and are a key component of a balanced and nutritious diet.

Is corn a carbohydrate?

Yes, corn is a carbohydrate. It contains starch and sugars, making it a plant-based food rich in carbohydrates.

Is glycogen a carbohydrate?

Yes, glycogen is a carbohydrate. It is a complex polysaccharide and serves as a storage form of energy in animals, including humans, primarily found in the liver and muscles.

What are refined carbohydrates?

Refined carbohydrates are processed foods where the fibrous and nutritious parts of grains have been removed. Examples include white flour and sugar. They can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and are often associated with a less nutritious diet.

What are the building blocks of carbohydrates?

The basic building blocks of carbohydrates are monosaccharides, such as glucose, fructose, and galactose. These simple sugar molecules combine to form more complex carbohydrates, including disaccharides and polysaccharides, which serve as energy sources and structural components in living organisms.

How many carbohydrates in a banana?

An average-sized banana contains about 27 grams of carbohydrates. However, the exact amount may vary based on the size and ripeness of the banana.

Is popcorn low in carbohydrates?

Popcorn can be relatively low in carbohydrates, particularly when compared to many other snack options. However, the carbohydrate content can vary based on factors such as serving size and preparation methods.

Is surcrose a carbohydrate?

Yes, sucrose is a carbohydrate. It is a type of disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose molecules and is commonly known as table sugar.

What foods are high in carbohydrates?

Foods high in carbohydrates include grains like rice and wheat, starchy vegetables, legumes, fruits, and sugary items. Pasta, bread, potatoes, and certain fruits such as bananas and grapes are examples of high-carbohydrate foods.

What is the daily carbohydrate intake?

The recommended daily carbohydrate intake varies, but it generally falls between 45-65% of total daily calories. Individual requirements depend on factors such as age, activity level, and overall health.

What has carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are found in a wide range of foods, including grains like rice and wheat, fruits such as apples and bananas, vegetables like potatoes and carrots, legumes including lentils and chickpeas, and dairy products like milk and yogurt. Additionally, sweets and processed foods may also contain carbohydrates.

 Is white rice a carbohydrates?

Yes, white rice is a significant source of carbohydrates. It primarily consists of starch, a complex carbohydrate that provides energy when consumed.

 Can carbohydrates be converted to fats?

Yes, carbohydrates can be converted to fats through a process called de novo lipogenesis, where excess carbohydrates are converted into fatty acids and stored as fat in the body. This conversion typically occurs when there is an oversupply of carbohydrates in relation to the body’s energy needs.

Can carbohydrate increase cholesterol?

Excessive intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars can contribute to elevated cholesterol levels. Healthcare professionals recommend choosing complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fiber-rich foods to support heart health and manage cholesterol effectively.

What are food with carbohydrates?

Foods rich in carbohydrates include sources like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and starchy foods such as potatoes. Incorporating a variety of these items into your diet provides essential carbohydrates for energy and overall nutrition.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation



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