Carbohydrates are the most important compound in a person’s cell because they help to produce energy. Energy is needed for all living things.

Carbohydrates are organic compounds and they have carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Carbohydrates are taken from food and broken down into sugar which gives the body energy.

Carbohydrates can be broken down in to two different types, simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

Simple Carbohydrates

A simple carbohydrate is also called a simple sugar. These types of carbohydrates are found wherever you would find white sugar. Some of these types of simple carbohydrates are:

  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Glucose
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose

For example, if you eat a candy bar, you are eating simple carbohydrates.

On the other hand, some other foods have simple carbohydrates and sugar is not added to them, such as milk or fruit.

These simple carbohydrates are important to the body because they contain other vitamins and nutrients that are important such as fiber, calcium and more.

Fructose is a sugar that is found in fruit and vegetables. Lactose is found in milk. Maltose is found in grains and sucrose is found in table sugar, beets and sugar cane.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are called starch. Starch is a mixture of polysaccharides, which is found in the plant cell for glucose.

With a starch, the body breaks down the glucose and turns it in to energy. Some complex carbohydrates include:

  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Pasta

Some complex carbohydrates, just like simple carbohydrates, are better for you than others. Some complex carbohydrates use refined grains.

Refined grains are grains that have been processed and the good parts such as the nutrients and the fiber have been removed. Some of these are white rice and flour.

Unrefined grains are rich in fiber and vitamins and minerals, so they help the body, such as helping the body to digest food quicker.


Dietary fiber is an important part of the body. This kind of fiber is not digested or put into the body. There are two types of dietary fiber, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber helps the stomach and the intestines to absorb the nutrients by turning into a gel like substance when it is digested.

Insoluble fiber helps to clean the intestines and keeps the body healthy by moving food that is not digested, waste, out of the body. Cellulose is one insoluble fiber.

How Does the Body Use Carbohydrates?

When a person eats a carbohydrate, the body breaks down the carbohydrate into a simple sugar. The sugar is then absorbed into the bloodstream and this causes the sugar level in your body to rise.

The pancreas then releases insulin, which is a hormone, and it helps to move the sugar from the blood to the cells so that the sugar can turn into energy.

When you eat something that has a lot of sugar, you will get hungry faster because the body moves the sugar through the body quicker.

When a person eats a healthier carbohydrate, the body moves the sugar through the body slower and it makes you not hungry as fast.

This is why complex carbohydrates are a better choice because they help you stay full longer.

Carbohydrates that are simple carbohydrates generally make your blood sugar higher quicker and when this happens often, a person can develop diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

It is important to make good decisions when eating carbohydrates.

Facts About Carbohydrates

  • Eating candy or cake produces simple carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar quicker.
  • Eating whole grain is a healthier carbohydrate choice because it raises your blood sugar slower and helps to remove waste from the body.
  • Some starches are in the form of vegetables such as potatoes and peas.
  • Complex carbohydrates are higher in fiber and fiber is good for the body.
  • Complex carbohydrates help to give the body important vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B and magnesium.
  • Carbohydrates that are high in sugar such as cookies and soda are usually high in calories and low in nutrition.
  • When counting carbohydrates, a person must count dietary fiber, sugars and other carbohydrates that are listed on the label.

What Did You Learn?

  • What are the two types of carbohydrates? The two types of carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates.
  • Which of the two types of carbohydrates are healthier? Complex carbohydrates are healthier than simple carbohydrates because they contain fiber and other vitamins and minerals.
  • How does carbohydrates affect the blood sugar? Simple carbohydrates raise the blood sugar quickly while complex carbohydrates raise the blood sugar slowly.
  • What does a starch do? A starch breaks down the sugar inside the body and then turns it into energy.
  • When you eat a simple carbohydrate, what happens to the body? When you eat a simple carbohydrate, the body gets hungry faster.
  • What is important about fiber? Fiber helps the body get rid of waste and it also helps the intestines to absorb nutrients.