Carbohydrates, Fiber & Acrylamide

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Carbohydrates, Fiber & Acrylamide
Carbohydrates, Fiber & Acrylamide
Video: Carbohydrates, Fiber & Acrylamide
Video: How do carbohydrates impact your health? - Richard J. Wood 2023, February

Carbohydrates & fiber

In terms of quantity, carbohydrates are the most important sources of energy for the body. More than half of the amount of energy supplied should come from carbohydrates. They provide approx. 4 kcal (17 kJ) per gram and therefore only half as many calories as fat with approx. 9 kcal (37 kJ). In the body, they can be stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Insufficient intake of carbohydrates can lead to disorders in the body. With excessive carbohydrate intake, these can be converted into fat.

The term carbohydrates includes a large group of "sugars" that are very different in their structure and composition. The commonly used term “sugar” means smaller single or double sugars, such as grape sugar, fructose or table sugar and lactose. On the other hand, there are multiple carbohydrate chains composed of individual sugars, which have a different status in food than "sugar". Some of them are indigestible and have particular health benefits (fiber).


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  • What functions do carbohydrates have in the body?
  • What carbohydrates are there?
  • What are the functions of fiber?
  • How much carbohydrates and fiber do people need?
  • ">Caution: acrylamide & glycidamide



What functions do carbohydrates have in the body?

In terms of quantity, carbohydrates are the most important nutrient for humans and provide the body with energy. The "universal energy currency" glucose (grape sugar) is also stored in the body in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen so that it is quickly available when needed. Certain cells, such as brain cells or red blood cells, are dependent on the carbohydrate glucose for energy. The amount and quality of carbohydrates ingested through food have an impact on blood sugar levels and blood lipids. In addition to their central function in the metabolism, carbohydrates also play an important role as building blocks of many (cell) structures in the body, for example in the genetic material (nucleic acids of DNA) and in connective tissue.

What carbohydrates are there?

Single and double sugar

Simple sugars (monosaccharides) are the smallest carbohydrates. They can no longer be broken down into "smaller" sugars. They include, for example, grape sugar (glucose) and fruit sugar (fructose). Linking two single sugars creates double sugars (disaccharides), such as table sugar (sucrose), milk sugar (lactose) or malt sugar (maltose).

These types of sugars are quickly broken down into glucose and quickly enter the bloodstream through digestion. The feeling of being full usually only lasts for a short time.

Single and double sugars are often found in sweets, sugary drinks, cakes and other pastries, various baked goods or honey. Single and double sugars are also often added to processed or finished products. Sugary drinks in particular can lead to severe obesity, type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. In addition, sweets, cakes, chocolate & Co. often contain a lot of fat. This group of high-carbohydrate foods should be avoided.

Polysaccharides and fiber

Carbohydrate chains with three to nine simple sugars are known as oligosaccharides. They occur, for example, in legumes such as peas and beans, but also in sugar beet and sugar cane. Polysaccharides - such as fiber and starch - consist of several simple sugars (at least ten).

These recommended carbohydrates are mainly found in plant-based foods, such as (whole grain) cereals, vegetables, fruits, legumes and potatoes. The multiple sugars and dietary fiber contained in it release glucose more slowly during digestion, as the carbohydrate chains first have to be broken down. Blood sugar rises steadily, not as much and not as quickly. The feeling of satiety usually lasts longer. In addition, such foods usually also provide vitamins and minerals as well as secondary plant substances. Dietary fiber is particularly valuable for your health.

What are the functions of fiber?

Dietary fiber has many important functions. For example, they satiate for a long time and stimulate bowel activity. In addition, they should also play an important role in the prevention of functional disorders of the body or in diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, arteriosclerosis or colon cancer. Ideally, the need for fiber is covered by whole grain products and legumes, as well as vegetables, potatoes and fruit.

How much carbohydrates and fiber do people need?

According to the recommendations of the DA-CH nutrition companies (Germany, Austria and Switzerland, DA-CH reference values), at least half (at least 50 percent) of the daily energy intake should be in the form of carbohydrates. Preferably in the form of oligo- and polysaccharides from (whole grain) cereals, vegetables, fruits, legumes and potatoes. With moderate physical activity (PAL value 1.4) this corresponds to 225 g of carbohydrates for female adults and 290 g for male adults.

You can find out more about the guideline value for the intake of carbohydrates and fiber in the DA-CH reference values.

How Much Sugar Per Day?

According to the WHO, "sweetening" carbohydrates in the form of household sugar, other added sweeteners, honey etc. should make up a maximum of ten percent of the energy intake. That corresponds to an amount of approx. 50 grams of sugar per day. This includes sugars that have already been added to processed foods such as cakes, other baked goods, sweets, finished products and sweet beverages.

How much fiber per day?

According to the recommendations of the DA-CH nutrition societies (Germany, Austria and Switzerland, DA-CH reference values), a guide value for the intake of dietary fiber in adults is at least 30 grams per day.

Examples of the average fiber intake (approximate figures):

  • 3 slices of wholemeal bread (150 grams) contain 13 grams of fiber,
  • 1 raw paprika (150 grams) provides 4 grams of fiber,
  • 1 large apple, raw (150 grams) contains 3 grams of fiber,
  • cooked carrots (100 grams) provide 2.5 grams of fiber,
  • 2 slices of graham bread (100 grams) provide 8.4 grams of fiber.

For more information, see Prevention with Fiber.

Caution: acrylamide & glycidamide

Acrylamide can be formed from carbohydrate compounds under the influence of high heat and the resulting tanning effect, the so-called Maillard reaction. This reaction of sugar (glucose, fructose) with protein building blocks takes place from temperatures of 120 degrees Celsius - also when frying, baking and deep-frying.

In addition to the desired expression of aroma and taste components, the resulting acrylamide can be harmful to health. It is converted to glycidamide in the body. This substance is suspected of altering the genetic makeup and causing cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC / WHO) classified acrylamide as “probably carcinogenic” for humans (class 2). It is therefore recommended to keep the acrylamide intake as low as possible. Since April 2018, according to an EU regulation, food business operators have been obliged to take binding measures to reduce the acrylamide content (Regulation EU 2017/2158 laying down minimization measures and guide values ​​for lowering the acrylamide content in food). Products that contain acrylamide include potato chips, French fries,Rösti, croquettes, bread, cereals, biscuits, rusks, gingerbread, crispbread.

The basic rules for low-acrylamide baking, roasting and deep-frying should also be followed when preparing food at home. The priority should be: "Golden yellow and not golden brown"!

The following tips from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) help to avoid exposure to acrylamide in the kitchen as much as possible:

to bake

  • The acrylamide values ​​rise sharply from 175 degrees Celsius.
  • By using circulating air, the surface dries out faster and more acrylamide is formed.
  • To avoid browning from below, use baking paper.
  • The baking time should be as long as necessary, but as short as possible.
  • Roast the toast briefly and lightly.

roast meat

  • Avoid searing it too dark.
  • Fry cereal and potato products at medium temperatures. Fry them only briefly and then reduce the temperature.
  • Fried potatoes made from boiled potatoes contain less acrylamide. If you still want to fry raw potatoes, you can put the potato slices in water for about an hour. This reduces the sugar content (= starting substance for acrylamide).


  • Do not exceed 175 degrees Celsius, even if higher temperatures for french fries are stated on the packaging.
  • Fry as short as possible, the ends of the french fries should be golden brown but not burnt.
  • If french fries are made from fresh potatoes, put the potato pieces in water for an hour beforehand to reduce the sugar content.

Storage of potatoes

The storage conditions of the potatoes already have an influence on the formation of acrylamide. For products that are later heated up (deep-fried, fried), potatoes should therefore be used that are as fresh as possible, have no green spots or germs and have not been stored below eight degrees Celsius (not in the refrigerator).

Further information on acrylamide is available on the AGES website.

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