What is the difference between types of carbohydrates?

he different types of carbohydrates differ from each other according to the amount of carbon in their formation. The main types of carbohydrates are: monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides.

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy obtained through food, they release important sugars for the development of various functions of the human body. They are fundamentally made up of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen ([C (H 2 O)] n ).

Monosaccharides Disaccharides Polysaccharides
Characteristics Simple carbohydrates, small in size and quickly absorbed by the body. Simple carbohydrates, formed by the union of two monosaccharides. Complex carbohydrates, formed by the connection between several monosaccharides, have large molecules and are slowly absorbed by the body.
Shapes ·         Glucose

·         Fructose

·         Galactose

·         Sucrose (glucose + fructose)

·         Maltose (glucose + glucose)

·         Lactose (glucose + galactose)

·         Starch

·         Cellulose

·         Glycogen

Foods ·         Honey

·         Fruit sugar

·         milk

·         Sugar extracted from cane and beet.

·         Malted cereals.

·         Milk sugar.

·         Tubers (potatoes, cassava, yams, etc.)

·         Fruits and vegetables

Foods can be composed of one or more types of carbohydrates, which, when digested, release sugar and feed the body’s cells.

Simple carbohydrates have a high glycemic index, are digested and absorbed quickly by the body. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, require greater effort by the body for digestion and release of energy, thus having a lower glycemic index.


Monosaccharides are simple carbohydrates, they do not undergo hydrolysis, such as glucose, fructose and galactose. They are found mainly in fruits, honey and milk.

Honey and fruits are great sources of monosaccharides

Monosaccharides are primarily responsible for the sweet taste of food. Some rich in this type of carbohydrate are:

  • Honey;
  • Banana, apple and pineapple;
  • Milk (galactose is not found isolated in nature, but associated with lactose in milk).


Disaccharides also called oligosaccharides are simple carbohydrates, the result of the connection between two monosaccharides.

People who have lactose intolerance should avoid dairy products

The main ones are:

  • Sucrose: union of glucose with fructose, present in table sugar and some sweeteners;
  • Maltose: union of its glucose molecules, extracted from germinated cereals, such as barley;
  • Lactose: the union of glucose with galactose, found in milk sugar.


Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates, have large molecules and, therefore, are digested more slowly by the body. This type of carbohydrate is found in low glycemic index foods.

In general, they are formed by linking smaller carbohydrates. And they play a very important role in food by gradually releasing the energy that the body needs.

Unlike monosaccharides and disaccharides, polysaccharides act as a reservoir of energy that is released over a longer period of time.

Potatoes are rich in starch, a polysaccharide

The starch present in foods such as potatoes, cassava and their derivatives are macromolecules that take time to be digested and absorbed by the body.

Carbohydrate-rich foods

Foods rich in carbohydrates release a lot of energy for the body. However, if this energy is not expended through some activity in the body, it tends to be stored in the form of fat.

For this reason, carbohydrates are often understood as villains of diets. For a healthy diet it is necessary to regulate the consumption of carbohydrates.

Breads, cereals, some fruits and vegetables are rich in simple and complex carbohydrates. Moderate consumption related to the activity to be developed is recommended.

Breads are a great source of carbohydrates

High-fiber foods make it difficult for the body to absorb carbohydrates and can be a good alternative to accompany healthy eating.

Here are some examples of carbohydrate-rich foods:

  • French bread: 57.3%
  • Rice: 28.0%
  • Noodles: 19.9%
  • Baked potato: 18.5%
  • Beans: 14.0%

The so-called low carb diets aim to reduce carbohydrate intake so that the body has to rely on fat stores as an energy source.


Leave a Comment