What Are Carbohydrates? PDF  | Print |  E-mail

What are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates, sometimes referred to as "carbs", are nutrients that are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Your body uses these bio-molecules for the storage of nutrients and the transfer of energy in the body. The two forms of carbohydrates are "simple sugars" and "starches", also called simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

It is often asked, what are carbohydrates and what foods are high in carbohydrates? Carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars are often found in candy and normal refined table sugar but can also be found in foods like milk and fruits. The latter types of carbohydrates are more nutritious for you so you should consume those when possible.

Other starches that answer the question, "what are carbohydrates", are foods like bread, rice, cereals, pasta, beans and potatoes. You may be surprised to learn that you eat carbohydrates in almost at every meal. Most living organisms get their energy from carbohydrates.

Another interesting fact is that carbs digest in the body with less water than most proteins. The right amounts of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are required by the body for proper immune system function, among other benefits. When asking what are carbohydrates, the answer can get very technical but simply put, carbohydrates are required by the body for normal everyday life.

It should be noted that 40-65% of dietary energy in a grown adult should come from carbohydrates, most of which dietitians recommend to be starches. Only 10% of carbohydrate should come from simple carbohydrates. Since the body requires a given amount of carbohydrates to function properly, a lack of carbohydrates may lead to fatigue, poor mental function and muscle cramps. Even though carbohydrates are important to have in our diet, the body is capable of producing energy from fat and proteins as well.

But when you ask, "what are carbohydrates?", you'll learn that the complex carbohydrates (starches) are broken down in your liver into simple carbohydrates (simple sugars) which can be readily absorbed into your blood-stream. Your pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin, when your blood-sugar level rises, which helps your body move the simple sugars from the blood into your body's cells.

If you consume carbohydrates that are already simple sugars like candy, this process can happen much faster, and the result is that you can often feel hungry again soon. It happens at a slower rate when you eat whole-grain foods and other starches, so you feel sated for a longer period of time.

Your dinner might be comprised of a baked potato, half cup of broccoli, 1 half cup carrots, 1 peach and two oatmeal cookies. A meal like this will give you a healthy amount of carbohydrates and the recommended portion of your daily carb needs.

We hope we answered your question, "What are carbohydrates"!

What are Carbohydrates