Foods That Contain Carbohydrates: Which Ones Are They?

Do you consume carbohydrates on a regular basis? Read on to find out which foods contain these macronutrients. In addition, we'll help you learn to differentiate the simple ones from the complex ones.
Foods That Contain Carbohydrates: Which Ones Are They?

Last update: 02 October, 2020

Carbohydrates are essential nutrients for athletes. From them, they’re able to get the energy necessary to carry out physical activity, which allows delaying the onset of fatigue, as well as ensuring good performance. For this reason, it’s vital to know which foods contain carbohydrates and introduce them into the diet on a regular basis.

Before we start talking about this particular topic, we must note that not all carbohydrates are equal in their composition. In fact, carbohydrates can be divided into two groups: simple and complex. Those in the first group are generally considered unhealthy and, in most circumstances, we should avoid the foods that contain them.

Simple foods that contain carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are characterized by their rapid assimilation. Once consumed, they enter the bloodstream within a few minutes, resulting in high pancreatic stress.

In the world of sports, it may make sense to consume them. However, a study published by the Journal of Hepatology shows that its regular intake in sedentary people has been shown to be harmful in the medium term.

This class of carbohydrates is mainly present in industrial products, such as:

  • Sweets
  • Chocolate
  • Ultra-processed foods
  • Some preserves and jams
  • Refined flours
  • Some fruit products

It’s necessary to clear something up when it comes to fruits. As a lot of you may already know, they contain fructose in their composition. However, its consumption isn’t associated with an increased risk of developing diseases, quite the contrary. This is due to two factors:

  • Fruits are mostly made up of water, while the net amount of sugar is small.
  • They contain fiber, which is capable of delaying the absorption of carbohydrates and thus reduces their impact at the pancreatic level.

Foods that contain complex carbohydrates

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates tend to also have fiber in their composition, which is why gastric emptying is delayed and the entry of blood sugar is gradual.

These foods should be the foundation of an athlete’s diet since they provide energy but aren’t as harmful as simple sugars.

In spite of everything, sedentary people would benefit from reducing their intake. According to research published in the Yonsei Medical Journal, regular carbohydrate consumption has been linked to poor metabolic health in adults.

Foods that contain this type of carbohydrate are:

  • Whole grains
  • Rice
  • Legumes

One of the best products that someone can include in their diet is oats, which are rich in complex sugars. This food of plant origin also contains fiber in its composition, so it helps maintain adequate intestinal health.

One of the main unhealthy foods that contain carbohydrates is candy. In this photo, a pile of sugary chewing gum.

Beware of polyols

Now, health authorities advise against the consumption of simple carbohydrates. For that reason, the industry is beginning to replace this ingredient in its products with artificial sweeteners. An example of them is polyalcohol.

This class of chemical substances has a sweetening power superior to that of table sugar. However, despite being caloric (they don’t contain any calories), they’re harmful to the body.

Its regular intake produces a decrease in the biodiversity of the intestinal flora. As a result, there’s an increase in the risk of developing metabolic diseases, as well as systemic inflammation.

For this reason, resorting to this type of food regularly isn’t a good option. The best thing in the case of sedentary people is to progressively reduce the consumption of carbohydrates, always prioritizing those of a complex nature.

In athletes, however, it’s not really necessary to carry out this restriction. In fact, simple sugars can be included during training or competitions in order to improve performance.

Foods that contain carbohydrates are useful in an athlete’s diet

As you can tell, there are many different foods that contain carbohydrates in their composition. Athletes require these macronutrients to carry out their physical activities.

Moreover, it’s important that you make a differentiation between foods rich in simple sugars from those that are rich in complex carbohydrates. In this way, you can include them in your diet and get the most out of them.

Finally, if you don’t practice sports frequently, remember to limit the consumption of simple sugars and processed sugars sweetened with polyalcohols. By taking this measure, you’ll favor your health in the medium term.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Jensen T., Abdelmalek MF., Sullivan S., Nadeau KJ., et al., Fructose and sugar: a major mediator of non alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Hepatol, 2018. 68 (5): 1063-1075.
  • Lee YJ., Song S., Song Y., High carbohydrate diets and food patterns and their associations with metabolic disease in the korean population. Yonsei Med J, 2018. 59 (7): 834-842.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.