How many types of carbohydrates are there

carbohydrates (Saccharides)

Carbohydrates, fats and protein are the main nutrients in our diet. When they are broken down, energy (measured in calories or joules) and basic building blocks of the organism are created in the body.

So that all building blocks can be used correctly and all metabolic functions run optimally, the following ratio of the main nutrients in the food consumed is most favorable: 55% of the energy consumed daily should be covered by carbohydrates, a maximum of 30% from fat and 15% from protein .

Of all nutrients, carbohydrates play the most important role in human nutrition. This includes all types of sugar and starch as well as the fiber in our food.

What functions do carbohydrates have in the body?

Energy source

The brain and red blood cells (erythrocytes) cover their energy needs exclusively from glucose (sugar), other organs can also use fatty acids as an energy source. 1 gram of carbohydrate ingested with food contains 4 kilocalories (17 kilojoules) of energy.

Support function

Complex carbohydrates are components of bones, tendons and connective tissue.

Energy reserve

Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver (100-110 g) and in the muscles (250 g). This can be used to provide energy very quickly if required.

Specific functions

Carbohydrates are components of blood group substances and anticoagulants.

Water and electrolyte balance

Carbohydrates are necessary to maintain the water and electrolyte balance.

Protein-saving function

Each nutrient has to fulfill certain functions, but to a limited extent they can also be exchanged for one another. In the case of a lack of carbohydrates (of importance mainly where there is a lack of food), proteins have to take over certain tasks of the carbohydrates and can therefore not be used for their actual functions in the metabolism.

What types of carbohydrates are there?

Carbohydrates are made up of a different number of sugars (saccharides). The number of sugar molecules and how they are bonded to one another play an important role in nutrition.

A distinction is made between three types of carbohydrates: simple sugars (monosaccharides), double sugars (disaccharides) and polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates or polysaccharides). Polysaccharides are divided into usable or digestible and non-usable or indigestible.


  • Glucose (grape sugar in fruit, sweets)
  • Fructose (fruit sugar in fruit)
  • Galactose (part of milk sugar)


  • Sucrose (= glucose + fructose, beet sugar or table sugar in sweets, drinks and wherever we add it)
  • Lactose (= glucose + galactose, milk sugar in milk, sweets)
  • Maltose (= glucose + glucose, malt sugar in beer, sweets)

++ More on the topic: Disaccharides ++


  • Starch, the main dietary carbohydrate (found in grains, potatoes, vegetables, and pulses)
  • Glycogen in muscle meat
  • Dietary fiber, cellulose or pectin (in whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits)

++ More on the topic: Polysaccharides ++

How do the differences work?

All carbohydrates are absorbed from the intestine into the blood as monosaccharides. From there they get into the body cells. Monosaccharides are quickly absorbed into the blood. Disaccharides must first be split into monosaccharides, which means that their uptake into the blood is slower.

Polysaccharides are broken down into monosaccharides in several steps and thus enter the blood slowly and continuously.

This results in the various effects of the carbohydrates in our food on various metabolic processes (e.g. the longer saturation value of foods that contain starch and fiber, the rapid energy supply through glucose, etc.).

What is fiber?

Dietary fiber (fiber or raw materials) is only a component of plant-based foods (cellulose, pectin, etc.). They are not used by the body for energy production as they cannot be broken down by our digestive enzymes.

Its primary function is to influence digestion. Diet low in fiber can lead to constipation, high fiber meals cause a longer satiety value.

++ More on the topic: Dietary fiber ++

How Much Carbohydrates Should You Eat?

The minimum amount of carbohydrates we need is 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. The recommended amount is based on the total energy requirement and is 250 to 360 grams for an average person.

The World Health Organization recommends consuming a maximum of 10 percent of total energy in the form of sugar (this corresponds to about 60 grams).

What happens if you eat too much or too little carbohydrates?

If the supply of carbohydrates to the tissues is greater than their consumption, the excess is converted into fat and stored as depot fat.

A lack of carbohydrates means that proteins from food are first broken down and then converted into carbohydrates in order to ensure that important metabolic processes run smoothly. It is therefore advisable to consume sufficient carbohydrates in order to save valuable protein for other functions.

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