Carbohydrates 101 – Types, Key Benefits and Food Sources

carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for energy and heat in the body. 

They are the body’s most efficient energy source, ensuring that our brain, muscles, and other organs run smoothly. 

They consist of simple carbohydrates like sugar and fruits, and complex carbohydrates like starches and fiber (e.g. pasta, rice, bread, and vegetables). 

It is suggested that you get most of your carbohydrates from complex sources. 

What’s Covered Here:

What Are Simple Carbohydrates? 

Simple carbohydrates are sugars such as glucose, fructose, lactose and sucrose. 

Sources include corn syrup, maple syrup, table sugar, candy, cake and sweetened cereals. 

They contribute “empty calories” that provide energy but no nutrients. 

What Are Complex Carbs? 

The main source of complex carbs are wholegrains and wholegrain products such as wholewheat bread, brown rice, pasta, vegetables and beans. 

Complex carbohydrates usually supply a healthy bonus of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Bottomline

Each type of carbohydrate will eventually end up as glucose (a form of sugar that is carried in the blood and transferred to cells for energy). 

But, they differ at the rate in which they enter the blood stream and in their nutritional value. 

Simple carbohydrates are usually low in nutritional value and enter the blood stream quickly, providing short-lived energy. 

Complex carbohydrates enter the blood stream in a slower, more consistent rate and are more nutritious, with dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. (1, 2)

What Counts As A Serving?

Carbohydrates

(rice, bread and noodles) 

½ cup of rice/mee/mee-hoon/kuay-teow 

1 slice of wholemeal bread 

½ piece of chappati 

1 cup of porridge 

½ cup of breakfast cereal

Vegetables

½ cup of green leafy vegetables (cooked) 

½ cup of tubers 

Fruits 

1 slice of papaya/water-melon/pineapple 

1 banana/orange/apple/pear 

½ cup of fruit juice 

Milk and dairy products

1 glass of milk 

1 cup of yogurt 

1 slice of cheese 

Eggs, meat, fish and nuts 

1 medium-sized chicken drumstick 

1 mackerel (ikan kembong) 

2 matchbox-sized lean meat 

1 cup of nuts 

2 pieces of beancurd 

2 pieces of tempeh (fermented beans) (3)

References

  1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, April 17). Choose your Carbs wisely. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705?pg=1

  2. Gloria Askew, RRN and Jerre Paquette, PhD, 2012. Eat To Save Your Life (pp. 72-87). 1st ed. Bloomington, IN: Balboa Press.

  3. Cdc.gov. 2022. Carbohydrate Choice Lists. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/diabetes-and-carbs/carbohydrate-choice-lists.html> [Accessed 20 February 2022].

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