What Is a Carbohydrate ?

And what are good carbohydrate foods?

We have all heard of carbohydrates but what is a carbohydrate and what are good carbohydrate foods?  Without going too scientific on you, carbohydrates contain the elements carbon (C), oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H), hence the name, and they are obtained from plants during the process of photosynthesis.  Energy from the sun transforms carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates.

So there you have a concise carbohydrate definition. Ok enough of the boring science stuff. You want to know what are good carbohydrate foods.

A typical everyday meal should contain a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Ok, so we have answered the question what is a carbohydrate, so now our list of carbohydrate foods has to be divided into two groups:

Simple carbohydrates - that is sugars to you and me.


Complex carbohydrates - or starches to give them their common name.

Simple Carbohydrates

These are sweet to taste and soluble in water and examples are:

  • Glucose (the simplest form of carbohydrate) found in honey, fruit, vegetables and some soft drinks.
  • Fructose, found in fruit and honey
  • Lactose, found in milk and dairy foods
  • Maltose, found in grains, wheat and barley and malt
  • Sucrose, found in fruit and vegetables and is often added to many foods and drinks to sweeten them.  Commonly known as table sugar.

Simple carbs release sugar into the blood stream quickly and therefore are not recommended for controlling diabetes, with the exception of fructose.

Complex Carbohydrates

Known as starches, this type of carbohydrate is complex due to its structure. Starch is formed from thousands of simple carbohydrate molecules linked together in various configurations. Starches are found predominantly in cereal products (flour, bread, rice, corn, oats, and barley), potatoes, legumes and other vegetables. They are insoluble in water until they are heated or cooked and then the bonds are broken down between the glucose molecules when we eat them.

Some good examples of complex carbohydrate are:

  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables

Theses types of complex carbs are recommended for helping diabetics to control sugar levels and therefore control their condition. They are also recommended for helping to maintain a healthy heart as they contain little or no cholesterol.

What Is A Carbohydrate: Some Important Facts

  • One gram of carbohydrate contains 4 Calories, the same as protein, but much less than fat (9 calories) and alcohol (7 calories)
  • Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of dietary fibre
  • Simple and complex carbohydrates are present in different amounts in various foods.  For example a slice of bread contains the same amount of carbohydrate as a banana, but the banana is mainly sugar and the bread mainly starch
  • Fructose is the slowest glucose releasing carbohydrate meaning it can be used by diabetics, as the body does not require insulin to be released

Enough of what is a carbohydrate? What is protein?

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