What are Organic Compounds?

What are Organic Compounds

Organic compounds refer to a group of chemical compounds where one or more carbon atoms are covalently combined with other elements. The common elements that combine with organic compounds are nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. Let’s see what are organic compounds

However, other carbon-containing compounds not classified as organic includes cyanides, carbonates, and carbides. 

What are the Types of Organic Compounds?

Organic compounds are referred to as “organic” only because they have been associated with living organisms. Therefore, these molecules will be the basis for life. However, these compounds are studied in depth in organic chemistry and biochemistry disciplines. 

Organic compounds found in living things are classified into four classes:

  • Lipids
  • Carbohydrates 
  • Nucleic acids
  • Proteins 

Moreover, there are compounds not in the list above but produced by some organisms. But the common thing about all organic compounds is that they should contain carbon bonded to hydrogen. 

Let’s explore these organic compounds to find more about the molecules. 

  • Carbohydrates 

Carbohydrates are one of them. These organic compounds contain hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. In these carbohydrates, the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen is 2:1. 

All organisms will need carbohydrates because they act as the source of energy, structural units, among other benefits. 

Carbohydrates are usually classified depending on the subunits they contain. The simple carbohydrates are known as sugars – which have one unit and are referred to as monosaccharides. When two units join together, they will form disaccharides while more complex structures form polymers. An example of large carbohydrate compounds is chitin and starch. 

  • Lipids 

The other carbohydrate in the group is lipids. These are usually made of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon atoms. However, lipids usually contain a higher ratio of hydrogen to oxygen than carbohydrates.

Further, lipids are classified as steroids, phospholipids, and triglycerides (oil, fat, and waxes). With triglycerides, they usually have three fatty acids combined with a glycerol molecule. 

On the other hand, phospholipids resemble triglycerides, only that there is usually a phosphate group in fatty acid chains. Steroids generally have four carbon rings that are joined to each other. 

Lipids are helpful because they are used to store energy, act as signal molecules that help cells communicate and build structures. 

  • Proteins 

Proteins are other groups of compounds. However, protein contains amino acids known as peptides. It may result from a single polypeptide chain, but others have complex structures. 

Protein will contain oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon atoms. Other proteins will have other atoms like iron, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium, and copper. 

Proteins are essential to the cells. They help catalyze biochemical reactions, build structure, package and distribute immune response materials, and replicate genetic material. 

Examples of proteins are collagen, enzymes, keratin, albumin, fibrin, and myoglobin. 

  • Nucleic Acid 

This is a biological polymer consisting of chains of nucleotide monomers. These are also made of sugar molecules, nitrogenous bases, and a phosphate group. Cells will use nucleic acids when coding genetic information of organisms. These are the DNA and RNA. 


There are other types of compounds but not found in organisms. And they include dyes, vitamins, drugs, solvents, molecules, toxins, and artificial flavors.


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