How Much Do You Actually Know About Carbs?

Can you go 10/10 with these carb Qs?


What are the main types of carbs?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: Sugar, starch, and fiber!
Wrong: The correct answer is sugar, starch, and fiber.

… And not all of them are “bad” for you

If you’ve been avoiding carbs at all costs, hold up. Carbs are the primary class of nutrients that your body uses for energy, and they come in a few different forms. While all provide energy, some provide better quality fuel than others. The three main groups of carbs are sugars, starches, and fiber.

Sugar gives quick energy, but you might “crash” soon after. That’s because the body digests sugars quickly. Sugar doesn’t just refer to white table sugar: It also includes the naturally occuring sugars in dairy (lactose), fruit (fructose), and other sweeteners like maple syrup and beet sugar (sucrose).

Starches are found in things like grains, beans, and vegetables. They’re America’s most abundant source of carbs (pasta, Wheaties, and mashed potatoes all fit in this category). Your body breaks down both sugar and starch into a simple form of sugar, called glucose, in the body.

And then there’s fiber. This highly beneficial carb is found exclusively in plant foods, and it passes through your digestive tract undigested. (That’s why many high-fiber foods are lower in calories.) Fiber regulates your digestion, helps you stay full longer, and provides longer-lasting energy than sugar.

In other words, if you’re trying to clean up your carb habit, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. You can cut back on certain carbs, like sugar, while leaving room for certain starches and fibers.


One of the main problems with America’s carb love affair has to do with portion size. What’s the actual recommended portion size of pasta, according to the USDA?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: It's just 1/2 cup cooked pasta!
Wrong: The correct answer is 1/2 cup cooked pasta

Wayyyy less than what Olive Garden gives you

According to MyPlate, the food guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a serving of grains is about one ounce. That translates to a slice of bread, a cup of breakfast cereal, or a 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, rice, or porridge.  Psst… Restaurant portions can often surpass two or three cups of noodles!


Which of the following is not a major source of carbs?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: It's eggs!
Wrong: The correct answer is eggs.

Many food groups contain carbs

If you were paying attention during the first question, you know that carbs are found way beyond the bread aisle. You might associate carbs with grains, but fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes are also sources of carbs. More proof that carbs are good for you!

Per serving, pinto beans contain 22 grams of carbs, pineapple has 21.6 grams, and rye bread has 19 grams.  An egg, on the other hand, has just 0.7 grams of carbs; it contains mainly protein and fat.


How many carbs should you eat a day on a 2,000-calorie diet?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: 300 grams!
Wrong: The correct answer is 300 grams.

Quite a bit (but it adds up faster than you think)

In carb-fearing world, 300 grams of carbohydrates may seem like a massive number. When you divide 300 grams by three meals and a couple of snacks, you’re not eating all that much at any given time. Remember: Carbs are an essential macronutrient that gives your body the energy it needs to stay fueled all day.  The Food and Drug Administration recommends focusing on the quality of your carbs rather than the quantity. Nutrient-dense carbs, like whole grains and legumes, will sustain you better than sweets and french fries.


You may have heard the phrase “low-glycemic index food.” What does it mean?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: Carbs that don't spike blood sugar!
Wrong: These foods have carbs but don't spike blood sugar.

Low-GI foods are blood sugar-friendly!

The glycemic index of foods measures how much they affect your blood glucose levels after you eat them. They are generally categorized as low GI, medium GI, and high GI. The key to a low-GI food is the presence of fat, protein, or fiber. For example, fruit has a low glycemic index because it’s high in fiber, which balances out the sugar content and helps prevent blood sugar from spiking. White bread, on the other hand, has little or no fiber, so the carb content can have a negative impact on blood sugars.


How many calories per gram does a carb have?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: 4 calories!
Wrong: The correct answer is 4 calories.

Each gram of carbs contains 4 calories

Carbs and proteins both contain about 4 calories per gram. A gram of fat contains about 9 calories. That’s why high-fat foods (ahem, peanut butter) can contain so many calories in such a small portion. That doesn’t mean carbs and proteins are better for you than fat; it just means you should adjust your portion sizes of fat accordingly.


What do complex carbs have that simple carbs don’t?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: It's fiber!
Wrong: The correct answer is fiber.

Fiber up!

The beauty of the complex carb lies in its additional vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Carbs like beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables come loaded with fiber that helps slow down the digestion of any sugar or starch the food also contains. The fiber also helps you feel full after your meals, so these carbs can actually help, not hurt, your weight management.

Simple carbs are essentially just sugar, even those fancy-sounding ones like agave nectar, beet sugar, molasses, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup. Even the sugars within fruit and milk are—by themselves—a simple carb. That’s why orange juice isn’t as good for you as an orange (which still has the fiber intact).


Which of the following is considered a low-carb diet?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: The Keto diet is low-carb!
Wrong: The correct answer is the Keto diet.

Only the Keto diet cuts carbs

Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets make ample use of carbs, but they emphasize healthier kinds like whole grains and other complex carbs. (The USDA recommends getting at least half of your total grains as whole grains.) Vegetarian diets also tend to be high in carbs, a natural effect of cutting meat from the diet.

The Keto diet, however, requires a strict compliance of less than 5 percent of your daily calories coming from carbs. The idea is to deprive the body of carbohydrates so it switches to using fat as its primary source of fuel. FYI, it’s intended to be a treatment for children with seizures, and most nutritionists do not recommend it for other purposes (you know, like weight loss).


What are “net carbs”?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: It's the total carbs minus fiber!
Wrong: The correct answer is "total carbs minus fiber."

Net carbs refer to the sugar and starch in a food

If you or someone you know ever tried the Atkins diet, you’re probably super familiar with the idea of net carbs. The measurement allows you to more fairly compare carby foods, like a banana versus a popsicle. While both contain carbs, a banana obviously has fiber that a popsicle is lacking. To compare them based on their total carbohydrate content does not give a fair depiction of their nutrition.

Since fiber doesn’t spike your blood sugar like sugar and starch alone do, net carbs are a way to highlight only the carbs that will impact blood sugar the most (i.e. sugar and starch). To find the net carb, you take the total carbohydrate content and subtract the grams of fiber (and sugar alcohols, if the food contains any).

But approach net carbs with caution. As with all numbers, they can’t give you the entire picture. The American Diabetes Association still recommends using the total carbohydrates number, since all types of carbs may affect your blood sugar to some degree.


G’morning! Which of the following breakfasts has the lowest amount of carbs?

Please Select an Answer.
Correct: It's the BK burrito!
Wrong: The correct answer is the BK burrito.

Restaurants are full of surprises

Here are the carb counts from least to greatest: the BK burrito with 27 carbs, the Panera sandwich with 52 carbs, the McDonald’s hotcakes with 103 carbs(!!), and the IHOP crepe with an astounding 121 carbs.

The lesson to learn from this question is that you can’t judge a menu item from its name (or the reputation of the establishment it comes from). Ultimately, it comes down to the portion size. Burger King’s burrito doesn’t necessarily sound low in carbs (considering it includes starchy hash browns and a carby flour tortilla), but it comes in a more reasonable portion than IHOP’s banana crepe.

That said, it’s never a good idea to look at numbers alone. Although higher in carbs, Panera’s avocado, egg white, and spinach sandwich might provide more nutritional benefits per calorie, thanks to the added veggies. (If something doesn’t fit in your calorie or carb budget, you could always split it with a friend!)

Quiz Results

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Reviewed by: Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: May 24, 2018
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