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Overview of Carbohydrates: Types, health benefits and functions

Team AckoJun 13, 2024

Carbohydrates are a vital macronutrient found in various foods, serving as the primary source of energy for the body. While they often get a bad reputation in certain diet trends, carbohydrates play crucial roles in maintaining overall health and supporting bodily functions.

One of the primary health benefits of carbohydrates lies in their role as the main source of energy. When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is then utilised by cells for fuel. This energy is essential for powering bodily functions, including physical activity, cognitive processes, and cellular metabolism. Without an adequate intake of carbohydrates, the body may rely on protein or fat for energy, which can be less efficient and may lead to fatigue and reduced performance.

Carbohydrates are essential for maintaining good health and supporting various bodily functions. From providing energy to promoting digestive health and supporting brain function, including carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet is crucial for overall well-being. Emphasising complex carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed foods can maximise the health benefits associated with carbohydrate consumption.

This article gives an overview of Carbohydrates, their types, health benefits, and functions.





What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients the human body needs daily. The other two are lipids and proteins. If ingested in the appropriate amounts, Carbohydrates have several advantages. They can help you maintain your weight and serve your body's nutritional needs.

Health benefits of Carbohydrates

Here are some health benefits of eating a balanced carbohydrate-rich diet. (Note: Please know about the classification of carbohydrates and consult a doctor before making any significant changes to your diet.)

  • Provides energy to the body: Carbohydrates provide fuel for the brain and body. If your brain's glucose levels drop below optimal levels, it may begin acting strangely. Your brain needs glucose and Carbohydrates to function normally.

  • Carbs from a high-fibre diet aid weight loss: According to Brigham Young University studies, middle-aged women who had a high-fibre diet shed weight. Conversely, people who consumed less fibre put on weight. Fibre tends to raise the satiety index of the meal you eat. This implies that you will cut back on your eating for a while.

  • Prevents stomach issues: Certain complex Carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed can cause excessive gas and bloating. The consumption of healthy carbohydrates, such as those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, contains significant amounts of dietary fibre, which supports regular bowel movements.

  • Helps you sleep better: Improved sleep may be aided by Carbohydrates, which raise insulin levels. In turn, this increases tryptophan levels and promotes serotonin synthesis. This serotonin prevents the overactivity of energising hypocretin neurons, ensuring a peaceful sleep.

  • Improves digestion: Dietary fibre is essential for the best digestive health. These meals with natural carbs contain this fibre. These foods are healthy for the gastrointestinal tract and lower the risk of Colon Cancer. Soluble fibre is abundant in nuts, beans, oats, almonds, apples, and blueberries. This fibre is crucial because it lowers elevated blood sugar levels and lowers LDL cholesterol. It is a known truth that having high LDL and sugar levels is bad for the heart.

Types of Carbohydrates

Following are the three major types of carbohydrates. 

1) Fibre

Vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain food items are plant-based foods high in fibre. Among other veggies, you can find it in broccoli, beets, and carrots. Carbohydrates aid in improving digestion by pushing food through the intestines. Fibre also decreases cholesterol and aids in blood sugar management. According to health experts, adults need to consume 25 to 30 grams of fibre daily to benefit from it.

2) Sugar

Sugars belong to the simple carbohydrate group. Your body easily digests such Carbohydrates. Blood sugar levels swiftly rise and decrease as a result of this. Foods with natural sugars occasionally offer fibre, vitamins, and minerals in addition to energy.  Natural sugars can be found in fruits, milk, honey, and vegetables. Sugars are added to processed foods, syrups, desserts, etc. However, consuming too much sugar might increase calorie intake and cause weight gain.

3) Starch

Starches are frequently referred to as complex carbohydrates. In addition, they supply vitamins and minerals. The breakdown of any complex carbs takes longer in the human body. Blood sugar levels will stay steady as a result of this. In addition to grains like barley, oats, and rice, they can be found in starchy vegetables like potatoes and maize.

Functions of Carbohydrates

The following are the roles that Carbohydrates play in the human body.

  • One of the primary roles of carbohydrates is to create and provide energy to the cells of the human body.

  • Glucose is used to create NADPH molecules, aiding in the defence against oxidative stress. Any extra glucose is converted to fat if a body's whole glycogen-storing capacity, energy, and glycogen-building requirements are satisfied. Consequently, eating a lot of Carbohydrates may result in weight gain.

  • The majority of glucose that is ingested aids in energy production. But some of them are transformed into ribose and deoxyribose. These are the fundamental components of essential macromolecules like DNA, ATP, and RNA.

  • Glycogen is the form of glucose that is stored when a human body has adequate energy to support all of its tasks (most of which is stored in the liver and muscles). Carbohydrates also serve this purpose.

Thus, the importance of carbs to the human body cannot be overstated. The same thing in excess can be hazardous. Therefore, it would be advantageous if you planned your diet to have the right amount of healthy carbs.

Difference between simple and complex carbohydrates

Simple Carbohydrates Complex Carbohydrates
The names for simple Carbohydrates are “monosaccharides and disaccharides”. The name for complex Carbohydrates is “polysaccharides”.
They are absorbed instantly. The time taken for the body to absorb complex Carbohydrates is much more than simple Carbohydrates due to their complex structure.
They are found in vegetables, milk, fruit, etc. They are found in white bread, pastries and cakes, etc.

Difference between Good and Bad Carbohydrates

Good carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are rich in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. They are generally lower in calories, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol, making them beneficial for overall health when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

In contrast, bad carbohydrates, often found in processed and sugary foods, tend to be low in essential nutrients while being high in calories, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. These refined carbohydrates contribute to weight gain, increase the risk of chronic diseases, and have negative effects on overall health when consumed in excess.

Choosing good carbohydrates over bad carbohydrates is fundamental to promoting optimal health and well-being. Prioritising whole, nutrient-rich foods while minimising intake of processed and sugary foods can support overall health and reduce the risk of various health conditions.

Carbohydrates foods list

Take a look at the following list of food items rich in Carbohydrates.

  1. Sweet Potato: People love to include sweet potatoes in several dishes. They are great sources of carbohydrates. The amount of carbs in one medium sweet potato with its skin is 23.61 grams (g). They are a great source of potassium and vitamins A and C. According to a 2015 study, some Carbohydrates in purple sweet potatoes may also have anticancer and antioxidant properties.

  2. Dates: There are many different varieties of dates that are naturally sweet enough to be eaten as a snack or dessert. The amount of carbs in a single pitted Medjool date is 17.99 g. Fibre, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin B6 are also present.

  3. Beetroot: Beetroots are a sweet, purple root vegetable that can be consumed both raw and cooked. There were 13 g of Carbohydrates in a cup of raw beets. Potassium, calcium, folate, and vitamin A are all abundant in beets. They also provide naturally occurring inorganic nitrates, which may improve heart health.

  4. Corn: People frequently eat corn as a side dish on the cob or in a salad. 25g of carbs and 3.36g of protein are found in 100g of maize. It also has a healthy amount of vitamin C. A 2007 study found that maize is suitable for high blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

  5. Grains: The seeds of broadleaf plants, such as grains and pseudograins, are excellent suppliers of Carbohydrates. Protein and nutrients are present in whole-grain variants, with a wealth of nutritional advantages. Instead of consuming white rice and white bread, people can replace them with healthy high-carb grains.

  6. Kidney beans: Kidney beans or rajma are among the most popular kinds of beans consumed. The amount of carbs in one cup of kidney beans is 21g. Additionally, they are a good source of proteins, fibres,  potassium, and iron. White or black kidney bean consumption may help reduce intestinal inflammation.

  7. Mango: One cup of diced mangoes has 24.72 g of carbs. They are also a good source of potassium, fibre, and vitamins A and C. For breakfast, try adding mango pieces to your cereal or smoothie. Mango is also tasty and can be eaten by itself as a snack. Apart from the food items mentioned above, you can find Carbohydrates in quinoa, brown rice, oats, bananas, apples, grapes, goji berries, and lentils.

Frequently asked questions

The commonly asked questions and answers about Carbohydrates are mentioned in this section.

Is eating Carbohydrates first thing in the morning a smart idea?


According to the Carbohydrate timing theory, one should consume most of their carbohydrates in the morning. This is the most excellent time to eat Carbohydrates because you'll have the rest of the day to burn off that energy and stabilise your blood sugar levels. Thus it significantly aids with weight loss.

What should you eat before carbs to manage insulin levels?


In order to manage insulin levels, a research study advises consuming protein and vegetables before consuming carbs.

When are Carbohydrates not recommended?


Avoid eating high-carb meals if you don't exercise or have a sedentary lifestyle.

View Infographic: Overview of Carbohydrates


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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