Carbohydrates: What they are, types and their nutritional value

Valora este artículo post

In weight loss diets, there is a tendency to avoid carbohydrates. This has led many patients to think that carbohydrates are bad. But they are actually the body’s main source of energy . In fact, it is vital for maintaining good health. Therefore, it should be included in a healthy diet.

Now, what are the functions of carbohydrates, how many types of carbohydrates are there? In this article, we will address these and other questions.

What are carbohydrates?

They are biomolecules polyhydroxyaldehydes and polyhydroxyketones derived from alcohols with three basic elements, namely carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It is also known as carbohydrates (glucides, sugars or saccharides).

Carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fibers, which are present in a wide variety of foods, including grains, vegetables, dairy products and even fruits.

It is a macronutrient of great abundance on earth, according to the FAO they represent the main source of energy for the organism. It contains glucose.

Now, carbohydrates in themselves are healthy and indispensable for good health. However, if consumed in excess, they can cause some problems

On the other hand, there are sources of carbohydrates that are not healthy, because they are ultra-processed or refined.

Types of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have been associated with weight gain, so, it has been conferred a bad reputation. However, carbohydrates that come from natural foods are healthy and can be used in weight loss diets.

The following is the classification of carbohydrates.


Monosaccharides are made up of a single molecule and are simple sugars of three types: glucose or dextrose; present in all types of fruits, galactose. It can also be found in sweet potatoes, onions and other vegetable substances.

The simple sugar of this type of carbohydrate is fructose, which is present in bee honey.


This type of carbohydrate is composed of simple sugars, but unlike monosaccharides it has two molecules. Within this type of carbohydrate is sucrose present in table sugar, pineapple and carrots.

On the other hand, there is the “sweet” lactose and sucrose. The first; lactose, is in human and animal milk. The second; maltose, is in germinated seeds.


Oligosaccharides have a different molecule structure and can range from three to nine molecules. It can be obtained bound to proteins (glycoproteins).


We finish the classification of carbohydrates with Polysaccharides. It has a complex structure that exceeds ten monosaccharides. These are stored in the body and provide satiety thanks to their fiber content. Starch, glycogen, amylose, cellulose and chitin are polysaccharides

A good diet should include polysaccharides on a daily basis. Some examples are: potatoes, cassava, oat flakes and rice.

Nutritional value

Carbohydrates should be consumed daily, but in moderation, according to the FAO(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). If their intake is abused, the body will not be able to transform these minerals into energy, but rather, it will transform them into fat, which adheres to the adipose tissue under the skin, making it difficult to eliminate.

Now, in general, it is recommended to have a diet of 2000 calories per day. In this sense, according to the opinion of nutritionists, carbohydrates should represent 50% of these 2000 calories.

Of course, in a slimming diet you should be selective with the type of carbohydrate you choose. In general, breads, cookies, soft drinks generate insulin peaks and in the long term are detrimental to health. In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends consuming only 5 teaspoons of sugar daily.

Health benefits of carbohydrates

If the consumption of carbohydrates comes from natural or whole foods, it will help the body to function properly

  • Digestive problems. Carbohydrates contain fiber, which helps the digestive system to fulfill its function. The intake of these foods reduces the risk of constipation, reduces the glycemic load, prevents stomach problems, among other things.
  • It fights fatigue. The body needs energy, well, carbohydrates allow the body to have the necessary energy to practice sports and even perform daily activities.
  • Contributes to an ideal weight. The fiber present in this type of food provides satiety for a longer period of time. In this way, binge eating is reduced.
  • Minerals and vitamins. Vegetables, grains, fruits and other carbohydrates contain minerals such as iron, potassium, as well as vitamins, which prevent a great variety of health problems.

Frequently asked questions

For decades, there have been discussions about the type of carbohydrates that should be consumed. Here are some frequently asked questions:

are there bad carbohydrates?

Yes, there are bad carbohydrates. They are all those ultra-processed foods in which even their fiber intake has been reduced. In addition, sugar is added. They can cause obesity, diabetic conditions, tooth decay, and other associated problems.

Some examples of bad carbohydrates are:

  • Refined cereals such as white rice, corn flour.
  • Pasta, breads.
  • Sauces such as mayonnaise, ketchup, among others.
  • Cookies, potato chips, cakes, candies, etc.
  • Soft drinks, alcoholic beverages.

These types of food are usually delicious. They can be consumed but in low quantities. Of course, in weight loss diets it is better to avoid them completely.

what are good carbohydrates?

Complex carbohydrates provide nutrition, due to their minerals, vitamins and high fiber intake

  • Grains such as beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, among others.
  • Whole-grain foods, rice, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain or seeded bread, etc.
  • Fruits rich in fiber, plum, papaya, pear, plum, papaya, pear, strawberries, kiwi, tangerine, lemon, strawberries, kiwi, tangerine, lemon, among others.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Natural corn.
  • Legumes and Vegetables.
  • Quinoa.

Are carbohydrates fattening?

Carbohydrates themselves are not fattening. However, the added sugar and the contribution of oil do. In addition, the little fiber in processed food does not provide satiety, which leads to increased food consumption.

Therefore, the ideal is to consume carbohydrates with a lot of fiber and that are not processed, such as legumes and vegetables.

In relation to the foods that are usually sold in supermarkets, it is advisable to look at the labels of the products to verify the fiber intake. Avoid all those containing added sugar if you want to lose weight.

In short, carbohydrates are essential for good health. However, refined carbohydrates should be reduced or even eliminated because they are poor in vitamins and fiber

In addition, they are often high in calories due to added sugar.

German Fuertes Otero
German Fuertes Otero
CEO at M.D. from Stanford Medicine: Stanford, California, US, M.Sc. from University of Cambridge: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK and University of Oxford: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. PhD at Harvard University Harvard Catalyst: Cambridge, MA, US.

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

Artículos similares
Otros Artículos Populares