Difference between carbohydrates and sugars

Your body uses carbohydrates (carbohydrates) to make glucose, fuel that gives it energy and helps in the overall functioning. The body can use the glucose immediately or store it in your liver and muscles for when needed. They are also the first source of energy that muscles require when worked at high intensity without oxygen. Another function of carbohydrates is to regulate the digestion and use of proteins and fats, thus preventing the body from using proteins as its main source of energy. But do you know the differences between simple and complex carbohydrates?

Effects of consumption

Carbohydrate consumption should be at least half of the calories eaten daily. A non-carbohydrate diet has no fewer calories because carbohydrates have the same calories as proteins, which are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein, and fats still have more calories because they have 9 calories per gram. Therefore, it is not recommended to completely abolish them from your meals, as it can generate:

  • Increased cholesterol and triglycerides;
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes through the possible development of insulin resistance ;
  • Constipation, by reduction in fruit intake;
  • Difficulties in digestion, because proteins and fats take longer to be digested and are not indicated for those who have dyspepsia, for example.

One should not consume too much carbohydrate as it is stored in the form of fats. This occurs because the level of body energy decreases, affecting the muscular development and the decrease in the metabolic rate, causing less productivity in the reduction of the weight.


A simplified classification of carbohydrates, or glycines, consists of dividing them:

  • Monosaccharides:  Glucose sugars (found in the blood), fructose (found in fruits and honey) and galactose (found in the mammary glands). They contain only one molecule of sugar. Oligosaccharides contain from 2 to 20 monosaccharide units.
  • Dissaccharides or Oligosaccharides:  Compound by the union of two sugar molecules: sucrose (most common dietary disaccharide, also found in beet, sugar cane, sorghum, maple syrup and honey), lactose (milk sugar), maltose ( found in beers, cereals and seeds in the process of germination). For example, sucrose, which contains one molecule of fructose and one of glucose, can be mentioned.
  • Polysaccharides:  Contains three or more simple sugars: vegetable polysaccharides or starch only (found in seeds, corn and the various grains bread, cereals, pasta, etc.).

It is still fundamental to segment the types of carbohydrates to prevent diseases. One should opt for those absorbed more slowly by the body, to keep the brain active longer and avoid the symptoms of lack of carbohydrates, such as tiredness, craving for sweets or difficulty concentrating, for example.

Check out below what are the simple and complex carbohydrates and what foods fit into each category.

Complex Carbohydrates

The complex carbohydrate can be called starch in the diet. They are made of sugar molecules tied together like a paste, into a larger, more complex chemical structure, such as polysaccharides. Due to the size of their molecule, they are slowly digested and absorbed, causing small and gradual increase of glycemia, generating a slow process in the digestion. The result is the steady and steady supply of energy that limits the amount of sugar converted to fats and is thus known as polysaccharides. They are ideal foods for diabetics. They are, in general, richer in B vitamins, iron, fiber and minerals.

Another benefit in a diet rich in complex carbohydrates is the improbability in the excessive consumption of calories in the form of carbohydrates. So they are recommended for weight loss as they are low calorie and high in fiber, which will make your body feel satiated for much longer, thus limiting the consumption of other forms of calories.

Where are they found?

Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in whole plant foods and therefore are also often rich in vitamins and minerals. They are called foods with low or moderate glycemic curve, being:

  • Green vegetables;
  • Grains and whole foods made from them, such as oats, pasta and whole grain breads;
  • Vegetables rich in starch, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin;
  • Beans, lentils and peas.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are those with small molecular chemical structure because they are made of only one or two sugar molecules. They are the fastest source of energy because they are very rapidly digested, producing a sudden rise in blood glucose (glycemia). High glycemic levels in the blood are related to hyperglycemia, often associated with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, its consumption should be moderate.

Monosaccharides (glucose, fructose and galactose), disaccharides (sucrose, lactose and maltose) and oligosaccharides (raffinose, estrachiosis, fructooligosaccharide, etc.) are part of this group.

Where they are found

Foods rich in simple carbohydrates are very sweet foods. Called thus from high or moderate glycemic index , their sugar from them quickly goes to the blood. Are they:

  • Refined sugar;
  • French bread;
  • Corn syrup;
  • Honey;
  • Corn syrup;
  • Molasses;
  • Sweets and jellies;
  • Fruit juices;
  • Soft drinks;
  • Milk and dairy products;
  • Cereals like corn flakes;
  • Cooked pasta without sauce;
  • Popcorn.

Tips to Abolish Carbohydrate Sugar

  • You can learn more about sugars on the food label. Create a habit of reading the nutritional information and the parameters indicative of quality and safety of your intake, comparing them;
  • Choose to drink water instead of sugary soft drinks;
  • Add 1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice instead of a fruit drink with added sugar and preservatives;
  • Choose fruits as dessert and skip those with added sugar;
  • Consume cereals that do not contain or have lower sugar levels.


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