Carbohydrates (Carbs) – What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates (Carbs) – What are Carbohydrates?

What are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are present in everything that we eat! In fact, a carbohydrate is the basic building block of living things. This definition is organic chemistry 101. However, the structure and the amount of carbohydrates can vary greatly. The variation helps determine its classification as one of the three macronutrients needed to fuel the body with energy. The three required macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

When dieting, “carbohydrates” include sugars, starches, fruits, and some vegetables. So, carbohydrates are found in a large variety of foods. While some carbohydrates are from nature, many are found in processed foods.

Carbohydrates are the body’s first choice for energy. When excess carbs are eaten, they are often converted and stored as fat. When carbs are limited, the body will break down stored fat for energy resulting in weight loss.


1. Sugars

Some of the main ways that we eat sugar are via table sugar, milk, fruit, nectar, honey, and some vegetables. In addition, sugars are often added to pastries, pancakes, cakes, and biscuits. Then, even more sugar is added to the glazes, syrups, frostings, and jams!

A semi-hidden source of sugars is found in sodas, lattes, and fruit juices. In fact, some regular drinks contain more sugar and carbohydrates than donuts or pastries.


2. Starch

Bread, rice, pasta, cereal, wheat, potatoes, corn, pizza, and other flour-based foods are high in starchy carbohydrates.


3. Fruits

Fruits are often very sweet in nature. While they are like nature’s vitamins, most are sweet and sugary. So, most fruits are high in carbohydrates. However, most of the “berries” are more sour than sweet. Therefore, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are some low carb fruits enjoyed occasionally on a low carb diet.


4. Vegetables

Most of your dark leafy green vegetables are low carb vegetables. However, most of your brown, yellow and more colorful vegetables are high in starch. For example, potatoes, corn, carrots, beets, and sweet peas are sweet and/or starchy vegetables. Other vegetables may fall somewhere in between being a high carbohydrate vegetable and a low carbohydrate vegetable.

Remember this is a “low” carb diet, not a no carb diet. Therefore, some low carb vegetables should be your primary source of carbohydrates each day. Low carb vegetables are important foods to keep in your low carb diet!


As you can see, a person can easily eat way more carbohydrates than the body require. This is the reason why switching to a low carb diet lifestyle is so effective. Simply because most people are bombarded with an abundance of carbohydrates in one way or another.

…more details about carbohydrates.

In biochemistry, a carbohydrate is synonymous with the term “saccharide.” Carbohydrates (saccharides) can be divided into four main groups.


I. Sugars

The monosaccharides and disaccharides are sugars that often end with -ose.

  1. Monosaccharides
  • Fructose – a fruit sugar
  • Glucose – starch sugar
  • Galactose – breast milk sugar from humans (just an interesting FYI).
  • Xylose –
  • Ribose – Key role in the structure of RNA (genetic molecule)
  1. Disaccharides
  • Sucrose- cane or beet sugar
  • Lactose- milk sugar from cows
  • Maltose
  1. Polyols (sugar alcohols)
  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol

II. Oligosaccharides

  • Maltodextrin
  • Fructo-Oligosaccharides

III. Polysaccharides

  1. Starch
    • Amylose, Amylopectin, Modified Starches
  2. Non-Starch –
    • Glycogen
    • Cellulose – part of the plant cell wall, better known as fiber.
    • Hemicellulose
    • Pectins
    • Hydrocolloids

This concludes “carbohydrates” for our Low Carb Diet Life macronutrient series.