What Are Carbohydrates?


Carbohydrates are found in sugar, fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. They both exist in either a natural or refined form. Most carbohydrates break down into glucose (a specific type of sugar). There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Both of these feed yeast.

A diet too high in carbohydrates can upset the delicate balance of your body's blood sugar level, resulting in fluctuations in energy and mood that leave you feeling irritated and tired.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates include sugar, juice or soda, candy and some fruits and have little to no nutritional value and therefore should be limited. Simple carbohydrates provide short bursts of energy and activity, followed by a crash of blood sugar and energy.

Simple carbohydrates are also known as sugars. Simple carbohydrates are considered “empty calories” since there are not any vitamins or minerals in sugar. Simple carbohydrates are monosaccharide (one) and disaccharide (two) carbohydrates.

Natural sugars are found in:

  • apples
  • blackberries
  • blackcurrants
  • cherry
  • cranberries
  • grapefruit
  • kiwi
  • lemon
  • melon
  • oranges
  • peach
  • pear
  • plum
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • honey
  • agave
  • brown rice syrup
  • maple syrup

Refined sugars are found in:

  • biscuits, cakes and pastries
  • cakes
  • candy
  • canned or jarred fruits
  • chocolate
  • chutney
  • cookies corn syrup
  • fruit juice
  • fudge
  • gums
  • jam
  • jello
  • jelly
  • kool-aid
  • licorice
  • lollipops
  • pickles
  • prepared foods and sauces
  • pudding
  • soft drinks
  • sugar (brown, white)
  • table sugar
  • toffee

Simple carbohydrates (sugar) cause tooth decay.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates include corn, rice, potato, nuts and oats.  Complex carbohydrates provide a slower release of energy and don’t cause the same drastic blood sugar changes. Complex carbohydrates are often referred to as starch or starchy foods.

Complex carbohydrates as natural starches are found in:

  • bananas
  • barley
  • beans
  • bran
  • buckwheat
  • cassava
  • chickpeas
  • corn
  • cornmeal
  • lentils
  • maize
  • nuts
  • oats
  • parsnips
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • rice (brown, white, Arborio, jasmine)
  • root vegetables
  • wheatgerm
  • yams

They are found in processed and prepared foods like:

  • All Bran
  • bagels
  • Biscuits breads
  • cake cookies crackers
  • granary bread
  • high-fiber breakfast cereals
  • Muesli
  • Oatcakes
  • Oatmeal
  • pancakes, waffle
  • Pasta pastries
  • pita bread
  • pizza
  • Porridge oats
  • rice (brown, white, Arborio, jasmine)
  • Ryvita Crispbread
  • Shredded Wheat
  • sugary processed breakfast cereals
  • wheat flour
  • Wheetabix
  • white bread
  • white flour
  • white pasta
  • wholegrain breads
  • wholegrain cereals


How Your Body Uses Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates include foods composed of starches, sugar and/or fiber. They are the most common source of energy found in food. Proteins and fats make up the other two main sources of energy.

All carbohydrates form glucose when digested. Glucose is transported around the body via blood and taken into cells to be converted into energy.

The pancreas gland in your abdomen secretes the hormone insulin which controls the uptake of glucose by your cells.

If you have any excess glucose, this is converted into glycogen which is stored in the liver or in fat around the body.

When your body needs more energy, a second hormone called glucagon is secreted by the pancreas. This converts the glycogen back into glucose, which is then released into your bloodstream for your cells to use.

This means the body's glucose (sugar) metabolism is a cycle of glucose, insulin and glucagon reactions.

The slower the release of glucose and hormones, the more stable and sustainable the energy levels of the body.

The more refined the carbohydrate, the faster the glucose is released into your blood. This can cause peaks and drops in your blood sugar level, and less stable energy levels in the body.

Complex carbohydrates provide a slower and more sustained release of energy than simple carbohydrates. In their natural form they contribute to long-term good health, appetite control and sustained energy levels. Whereas simple carbohydrates give you a quick rise and fall in your energy level.

A disaccharide is simply two monosaccharides linked together. Most of the primary disaccharides are simple sugars you're already familiar with and include table sugar (sucrose, which combines a molecule of glucose with a molecule of fructose), milk sugar (lactose, which combines a molecule of glucose with a molecule of galactose) and malt sugar (maltose, which combines two molecules of glucose). Disaccharides are similar to monosaccharides insofar as they provide a sweet taste to food and give you relatively quick energy, which is why they are considered "simple sugars" as well. Like monosaccharides, disaccharides don't ordinarily become a problem in the diet until they are consumed in excess. And also like monosaccharides, they are most likely to be consumed in excess when we choose processed foods that have been sweetened with added sugars like white, granulated table sugar (sucrose).

Glycemic index of sweeteners.

What Carbohydrates Does the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) Allow?

The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut. (excerpted from Breaking the Vicious Cycle.)

Monosaccharides are present in most foods in at least some amount, but are particularly high in foods such as ripe fruit, and honey. Even on a low-sugar, yeast-fighting diet, the use of monosaccharides on the SCD is accepted since they are easily absorbed and the other types of carbohydrates are not used. Disaccharides require an enzyme to break down, which some kids with ASD don’t have in proper amounts.