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Carbohydrates – all the info about these valuable sources of energy

Carbohydrates are wrongly viewed as fattening. Whether they are "healthy" or "unhealthy" is simply a matter of choosing the right foods. The composition of foods containing carbohydrates varies greatly. Find out here how many carbohydrates you need per day and which foods contain carbohydrates.

How many carbohydrates should you consume per day?

Loose potatoes, which contain carbs and starch
First of all, carbs are divided into simple and complex carbohydrates. Sugar is an example of a simple carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates include starch, which is mainly present in cereal products and potatoes.
In line with the recommendations of the Swiss food pyramid, carbohydrates should make up 45 to 55 per cent of your daily energy requirements. This equates to 225 to 275 grams, depending on your calorie requirements.
The recommendation is three portions of starchy foods per day. Some examples are:
  • bread,
  • pulses,
  • pasta,
  • cereal flakes (e.g. oats),
  • potatoes,
  • rice,
  • corn
Plate of wholegrain pasta with green pesto
Wholegrain cereals are preferable. They have a number of benefits over products made with white flour:
  • They contain more essential dietary fibre.
  • They fill you up for longer.
  • They provide more vitamins and minerals.
  • They contain secondary phytochemicals, which are packed with health benefits.

As for bread: "brown" does not always mean "wholemeal"

Three brown loaves, one of which is wholemeal
Usually, breads labelled "brown" or "rustico" are not wholemeal breads. Often, these contain brown flour and/or grains. A true wholemeal bread will be labelled "wholemeal bread" and there will be a high percentage of wholemeal flour in the list of ingredients.

Sugar – when too many carbohydrates are bad for you

Sugar is also a carbohydrate. However, unlike starchy cereal products, it only supplies energy, without any other nutrients. What's more, it doesn't keep you feeling full for long. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that no more than 10 per cent of your daily energy intake should be from added sugar. This equates to around 50 grams of sugar a day – the amount present in half a litre of cola.
"Added sugar" means any ingredients added to a food because of their sweetening effect. This also includes sugar alternatives such as honey, agave syrup or date pulp, which are no healthier than granulated sugar.

Sugar and its effects on blood sugar levels

Sweet treats, cakes and ice cream as well as sweet beverages and fruit juices are very high in sugar. This causes blood sugar to rise sharply, which in turn releases a large amount of insulin. As a result, blood sugar quickly drops. This is why some people feel ravenous shortly after consuming sugary foods, which can quickly lead to weight gain.
Tip: hunger pangs are less pronounced if sweet foods are eaten after a meal, rather than between meals. It is also best to drink fruit juice and sweet beverages with food.
Find out how to reduce sugar and sweet foods on a daily basis and whether there are any healthy sugar substitutes, in our guides "How to handle sweet treats", "Reducing sugar" and "Sweeteners".