Carbohydrates Explained : How Many Carbs Are In The Food We Eat?

We hear so much about carbohydrates in the health and fitness industry, carbs will do this, carbs will do that, but the truth is that carbs just do what they do…and do it well! Carbs are the deliverer of glucose, they are the most readily available source of Glucose and need fewer biological processes compared to protein and fat in order to liberate energy.  So why do carbs always seem to be under the spotlight in one way or another, why are there ‘high carb intakes’ and what constitutes a ‘low carb day’? Well the whole ‘carb manipulation’ process is quite in depth and to discuss it in its entirety is beyond the scope of this short article, but what I can do is orientate you to what a large and small amount of carbs looks like.

Types of Carbohydrate

It’s pertinent to remember that carbs come in different forms, you have simple and complex carbs which liberate their energy over different time frames. Complex carbs release their energy more slowly compared to simple carbs because of their more complex chemical structure i.e. the presence of more double bonds. Simple carbs come in both natural and refined forms and they are released into the blood stream over a period of minutes instead of hours.

Typical Carb values of common foods

Complex Carbs (from highest to lowest per serving)


  • 250g Basmati/wholegrain rice = 80g Carbs
  • 250g egg noodles = 57g Carbs
  • 1x Bagel = 41g Carbs
  • 1x average sweet potato (100-150g) = 37g Carbs
  • 1x baked potato (100-150g) = 29g Carbs
  • 2x Weetabix = 26g Carbs
  • 30g Porridge Oats = 24g Carbs
  • 2 slices Wholegrain bread = 20g Carbs
  • 2x Ryvita = 14g Carbs
  • 2x Rice Cake = 12g Carbs
  • 50g (large handful) Cashew nuts = 11g Carbs


Simple Carbs (from highest to lowest per serving)


  • 1x 55g pack of sweets = 43g Carbs
  • 1x large banana = 23g Carbs
  • 200ml cola (soft drink) = 22g Carbs
  • 250g (half jar) prepared food sauces = 20g Carbs
  • 2x teaspoons clear honey = 17g Carbs
  • 125ml Fresh orange juice = 15g Carbs
  • 1x large apple = 11g Carbs
  • 2x tangerines = 10g Carbs
  • 3x squares chocolate = 9g Carbs
  • 2x teaspoons table sugar = 8g Carbs
  • 1x teaspoon Jam = 6g Carbs

The above list isn’t exhaustive, and the values are influenced by the portion size e.g. table sugar is significantly higher than an apple gram for gram, but the average serving of an apple delivers more than an average serving of sugar…hence the above list is based on an average serving and not total carb content.

Getting the carb balance is key, carbs are not the devil. You need carbs when bodybuilding, you need carbs when lifting weights, and you most definitely need carbs when you're running, cycling or performing any form of endurance work…heck, you need carbs just to stay alive! Anyone that tries telling you to avoid carbs completely, ignore them…or ask to see their Dietetic registration, carbs are integral…all you've got to do is understand them and get the balance right.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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