Understand Carbohydrates-Indian Food-Healthy Indian Nutrition

What are Carbohydrates?

carb-foodsCarbohydrates are the major source of energy to the body. An enzyme called amylase breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is then used for energy in the body.
There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex on the basis of sugar molecules in their chemical structure.
Types of Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrate refers to monosaccharides and disaccharides. They are made up of one or two sugar molecules. These are naturally occurring sugars in the food. Simple carbs are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. They cause a rapid increase in the blood sugar level. Examples of simple carbohydrates are:

  • Fructose(in fruits),
  • Lactose and galactose (in milk and dairy products)),
  • Maltose (in vegetables)
  • Sucrose (table sugar)Simple sugars occurring naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy and dairy products are also a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants and therefore should be part of daily healthy and balanced diet.

Simple carbohydrates or sugars are also found in a variety of processed foods. Unlike simple sugars in fruit, milk, and vegetables, the simple sugars in processed foods are added. For example, desserts, baked goods, pastries, candies, and sugary beverages are often loaded with simple sugar sucrose, also known as granulated table sugar. High-sugar processed foods are filled with empty calories, as they contain little or no nutritional value. These foods should be avoided as they lead to weight gain.

Complex carbohydrate refers to polysaccharides. Complex carbohydrates are formed from three or more sugar molecules. Complex carbohydrates are starchy foods that are rich in fiber. Complex carbs are broken down slowly by the body and lead to more steady levels of blood glucose. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas are among foods that are naturally rich in fiber.

Choosing carbohydrates wisely

Carbohydrates are an essential part of a healthy diet, and they also provide many important nutrients. Still, not all carbs are created equal. Guidelines suggest using fiber-rich carbohydrates and avoid added sugars.

  • Emphasize fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Aim for whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar. They’re better options than are fruit juices and dried fruits, which are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have more calories. Also, whole fruits and vegetables add fiber, water, and bulk, and help you feel fuller on fewer calories.
  • Choose whole grains. All types of grains are good sources of carbohydrates. They’re also rich in vitamins and minerals and naturally low in fat. But whole grains are healthier choices than are refined grains. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium, and magnesium. Refined grains go through a process that strips out certain parts of the grain along with some of the nutrients and fiber.
  • Stick to low-fat dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Choose the low-fat versions, though, to help limit calories and saturated fat. And beware of dairy products that have added sugar.
  • Don’t forget beans and legumes. Legumes, dry beans, peas, and lentils are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. They also have beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. Because they’re a good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Limit added sugars. Added sugar probably isn’t harmful in small amounts. But there’s no health advantage to consuming any amount of added sugar. In fact, too much added sugar, and in some cases naturally occurring sugar, can lead to such health problems as tooth decay, poor nutrition, and weight gain.

Daily Intake of Carbohydrates

  • Carbohydrate requirement is less if your lifestyle is sedentary.
  • Carbohydrate requirement is more if your lifestyle is active and you play sports or exercise.
  • Carbohydrate requirement is different in genders and differs with age.
  • Carbohydrate requirement changes if you have medical problems like diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or liver disease. Consult your doctor or dietician to know your carbohydrate requirement.

Counting Your Carbs

Some foods, such as jelly beans, are all carbohydrates. Others, such as meat and fish, have no carbohydrates.
Packaged foods have labels that tell you how many carbohydrates a food has. They will be measured in grams. You can use food labels to count the carbohydrates you should have.
The food label will say what the serving size is. It will also tell you how many grams of carbohydrates are in a serving. Total carbohydrates on the nutrition label refer to sugar; starch and fiber together. Sometimes the label will list sugar, starch, and fiber separately. The carbohydrate count for a food is the total of these. Multiply the number of servings you eat by the number of grams of carbohydrates.
You have to measure how many carbohydrates are in foods that are not packaged. Then you have to calculate the total carbohydrates in what you eat.
You can calculate carbohydrate with the help of the carb counter calculator link.
Carb Counter Calculator

For example, cooked long grain rice has 15 grams of carbohydrate per 1/3 cup. If you eat a cup of cooked long grain rice, you will eat 45 grams of carbohydrates.

Nutrition Label

Sugar: Check the Nutrition Facts label to determine the amount of sugar per serving. The amount listed includes sugars that are naturally present in foods (such as fructose in fruit or lactose in milk) and sugars added to the food during processing or preparation.
Look at the % DV column—5% DV or less is low in sugar, and 20% DV or more is high. Use these conversion factors to visualize the total amount of sugar (natural and added) in one serving of a food item:

4 grams of sugar = ~1 teaspoon = ~16 calories. For example, one can (12 fluid ounces) of a sweetened carbonated beverage has 40 grams of sugar or 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Added sugars can appear on the ingredient list as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup.

Net Carbs: Terms such as “low carb” or “net carbs” often appear on product labels, but the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate these terms, so there’s no standard meaning. Typically net carbs are used to mean the number of carbohydrates in a product excluding fiber or excluding both fiber and sugar alcohols.

Calories from Carbohydrates

About 45 to 65 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates. This equates to about 900 to 1,300 calories from carbohydrates or about 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates each day if you normally consume around 2,000 calories.
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram and are the primary source of calories in most of us. Most of these carb calories should come from healthy carbs like naturally occurring simple carbs in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products and from complex carbs that are rich in dietary fiber and from whole grains, beans and legumes.
Avoid refined grains or added starch in the food as these foods will add calories from the carbs but little nutrients leading to empty calories and weight gain.
Avoid adding calories from carbs that come from added sugars in candy, cookies, cakes, desserts, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Recommended serving sizes for foods high in carbohydrates:

Resized Cup Serving size
1 suggested serving contains 15 gm of carbohydrates

  • Vegetables: 1 cup of raw vegetables, or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
  • Fruits: 1 medium-size fruit (4 oz), 1/2 cup of a canned or chopped fruit, or 3/4 cup of fruit juice
  • Bread and cereals: 1 slice of bread( 1oz); 1tortilla(6 inches)1 ounce or 2/3 cup of ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, lentils, or dried peas
  • Dairy: 1 cup of skim or low-fat milk,2/3 cup of plain fat-free yogurt or sweetened with sugar substitutes


Daily Total Calories Calories from Carbohydrates (45% to 65% cals) Daily Total Carbohydrate Grams (45% to 65% cals)
1200 cals 540 to 780 cals 135 to 195g
1500 cals 675 to 975 cals 169 to 244g
1800 cals 810 to 1170 cals 203 to 293g
2000 cals 900 to 1300 cals 225 to 325g
2500 cals 1125 to 1625 cals 281 to 406g
3000 cals 1350 to 1950 cals 338 to 488g


There are three main types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugar. Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrates. Sugar occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products.
  • Starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.
  • Fiber. Fiber also is a complex carbohydrate. Fiber occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry

It is generally recommended that most of the carbohydrates you eat should be complex carbohydrates that are rich in dietary fiber and simple carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and dairy products that are rich in nutrients. Simple sugars, such as candy and sugary drinks, are generally not recommended as they lack nutrients and lead to empty calories and weight gain.
About 45 to 65 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.

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