What are Carbs? Carbohydrate Definition and Examples


carbs, fruits


= short for carbohydrates, but everyone seems to say carbs within the food world. It’s an American slang term that has found its way around the world.

What are Carbs?

Carbs have become something that you should avoid in our modern nutritional world. They are seen as the part of food that makes you put on weight amongst other things.

Nowadays we see lots of no-carb diets that claim to have benefits purely by not eating carbohydrates. The fact is that we need a balance, not just to cut one thing out of our diet.

What is the function of Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates also give us energy to perform daily tasks and we burn them whilst exercising. The best way to get rid of carbs is to go on a run or a bike ride. They are like fuel to a car and make us able to move around and function normally!

Examples of Carbohydrates

Some foods that contain high amounts of carbohydrates include bread, pasta and cereals.

So, my advice, don’t cut them out. Just exercise a little bit more.

Jill: Mark, would you like a sandwich?

Mark: No thanks Jill, I’m not eating carbs right now.

Jill: Is that healthy?

Mark: Well, it will help me lose weight so I thought I would give it a try!

Jill: Okay, but make sure you’re keeping a good balance!


Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fibers, that are in fruits, vegetables, and grains. They may be today’s most controversial food.

They are macronutrients, or one of the three main ways that our bodies make energy. However they are blamed by many as being the cause of weight gain. While it’s true that too many carbohydrates, or carbs, can cause your body to store fat, most nutritionist would say that carbs are an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Anyone who knows anything about carbs knows that all carbs are not created equal.

Two types of Carbs

There are two types of carbohydrates. Each affects our bodies differently.

Simple Carbohydrates

These are also known as simple sugars. They are broken down by the body quickly and are used for energy. Simple carbs can be found in foods naturally, or they can be added to foods.

Food that Naturally Has Simple Carbs

  • Milk
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables

I’m not a nutritionist or a fad diet expert, but if you’re going to eat simple carbs the above group is the place to get them from. They provide energy and they have vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Foods Where Simple Carbs Are Added

  • Cake
  • Candy
  • Soda
  • Syrups
  • Anything with refined sugar
  • Anything you add table sugar to

You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that too much of these foods will make you gain weight.

These foods have what is often called empty calories, because there isn’t anything nutritious in them. No vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, just lots of sugar. Unless you run around a lot right after you eat these foods, the sugar in them will probably end up being stored as fat.

It’s the simple carbs that studies have shown can be responsible for blood sugar to spike, thus increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes 2.

Complex Carbohydrates

These include starchy foods. While both complex and simple carbs are quick sources of energy, complex carbs are broken down slower by the body, thus being able to be used over a longer period of time.

Both simple and complex carbs are turned into glucose and used as energy, with unused glucose being stored in the body as glycogen.

Here are some complex carbs:

  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Crackers
  • Quinoa
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Lentils.

Some complex carbs are refined, these are foods such as white bread and white pasta. Foods like brown rice and whole wheat bread are not refined. Unrefined foods have more vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, therefore they are better for you and may help you feel more full.

How Your Body Uses Carbs

The reason why carbs are so controversial is because of how our body uses them. If they were all just burned off as energy, we’d all get to eat chips all day long and never have anything to worry about. But we all know that’s not the case.

Your body breaks down all carbohydrates (simple and complex) into simple sugar. The simple sugar, then gets absorbed into your bloodstream. As more sugar is released into your bloodstream, your pancreas releases insulin.

Insulin helps move sugar out of your blood and into your cells where it can be used as energy. Simple carbohydrates go through this process very quickly, which leaves you hungry fast. Complex carbohydrates go through this process much slower, leaving you full and less likely to eat again.

If your body cannot use all of the energy that it gets from carbohydrates, it eventually gets stored in your body as fat. The more simple carbs you eat, the more often you will want to eat. Thus making it more likely that you will give your body too much sugar, and it will get stored as fat.

It’s not carbs that are evil weight increasers, it’s just all about which carbs you eat, how many, and how active you are.

Sometimes people will talk about good carbs vs bad carbs. As a simple rule of thumb you can think of good carbs as foods that naturally have sugar, no added sugar, and that aren’t refined or processed. Here’s a list.

Good Carbs

  • High in nutrients
  • Low or moderate in calories
  • No refined sugars or grains
  • High in naturally occurring fiber
  • Low in saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, and trans fats

Food examples

  • Food that occurs naturally in nature
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

Bad carbs are:

  • High in calories
  • Full of refined sugars, like corn syrup, white sugar,refined  honey and fruit juices
  • refined grains like white flour and white pasta
  • Low in nutrients and fiber
  • high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats

Food examples

  • Anything that says low fat
  • Most packaged snacks
  • Candy
  • White bread
  • Cookies and cake

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