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“Carbohydrate” is a collective term for foods that contain sugars and/or starches. These include bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and cereals, among many others. Other foods that are a source of carbohydrates, but are seldom thought of as carbohydrate-rich foods, are fruits and vegetables. Click here to read about the carbohydrates in fruit and vegetables.

Carbohydrates are digested by the body and broken down into their smallest components – specifically, simple sugars called glucose. Glucose has a very important function as it is the primary source of fuel for all cells in the body. When you lose your ability to control the level of glucose in your blood, the result is diabetes.

The primary role of carbohydrates in the diet is therefore to provide the body with a readily available source of fuel in the form of glucose. The next important function of carbohydrate-rich foods is to provide important nutrients to the body. Click here to read about these nutrients.


As mentioned, carbohydrate-rich foods contain a large percentage of sugars and/or starches, which provide the body with glucose as a readily available source of energy. These foods also provide fiber, important nutrients, and antioxidants. However, with the development of food processing and manufacturing, technology has allowed the food industry to change the foods we eat significantly. As a result, carbohydrate-rich foods are often processed and refined. They provide you with sugar and/or refined starch but with very little in the way of important fiber and essential nutrients.

To understand how carbohydrates can be refined, consider whole-grain wheat. It is processed through manufacturing to become refined white flour, and consequently lacks the fiber and many nutrients that whole grains possess. White flour is then used to manufacture a multitude of unhealthy food products, such as white bread, pasta, cookies and cakes.

Refined carbohydrate-rich foods provide mostly refined starch or sugar and have very little to offer in terms of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Therefore these foods are not the best choice for healthy eating. This is because refined carbohydrates cause the blood glucose levels to rise rapidly, contributing to oxidative stress.

The bottom line is to make sure your carbohydrate-rich food selection contains the important nutrients and fiber that unrefined grains, fruits and vegetables have.


There are two types of fiber found in carbohydrate-rich foods:

  • Roughage refers to intact plant components that are not digested by gastrointestinal enzymes; these components include pits, seeds, tough skins and bran husks.
  • Functional fiber refers to non-digestible carbohydrates found in carbohydrate-rich foods. These non-digestible carbohydrates are used by special organisms called microflora that reside in the digestive tract.

Both forms of fiber are beneficial to your health. Fiber slows the absorption of glucose from the gut, helping to reduce glucose spikes, and contributing to more stable blood glucose levels. It feeds the microflora, which help to promote the healthy functioning of the gut and better immunity. Fiber also plays a role in producing important nutrients which can be used as potent antioxidants.

Functional fiber is also associated with reduced cholesterol absorption in the gut, which in turn helps manage your blood cholesterol levels and prevents coronary heart disease.

The best sources of fiber in the carbohydrate-rich food group include whole-grain and high-fiber cereals, high-fiber bread and grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables.


The best types of carbohydrate-rich foods are those that are less refined and contribute valuable nutrients to a healthy balanced diet. The most desirable choices are therefore all fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole-grain and high-fiber foods. Doing your best to incorporate these into your daily routine is a crucial part of managing your health risk and engaging in a healthy lifestyle.


The most desirable carbohydrate-rich foods are those that contribute important nutrients to the diet, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. These are fruit and vegetables, legumes and whole-grain and high-fiber foods.

Carbohydrate-rich foods are a primary source of fuel for the body, and once eaten, are broken down to form glucose. Glucose is used by your cells for energy.

Refined starchy foods and sugary foods do not contribute equivalent amounts of nutrients to the diet compared to less refined forms, and as a result are considered to be less desirable. You should eat these foods in moderation and infrequently.

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