Simple vs. Complex Carbs

Original Image by DAVID HOLT via Flickr
Original Image by DAVID HOLT via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Not all carbohydrates are the same.  Don’t believe me?  Well, there are some carbohydrates that have been deemed to be more favorable than others.  When choosing carbohydrates, opt for complex instead of simple.

A misconception is that carbohydrates are only found in bread.  While bread products are a major source of carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, cookies, cakes, pastries, milk and sweetened milk products are all included in the carbohydrate category.

Simple carbohydrates are sometimes considered empty calories as they add calories, but do not bring much nutrition to one’s diet.  It’s good to be aware of sources of simple carbohydrates, such as table sugar, products with white flour, honey, milk, yoghurt, candy, chocolate, fruit, fruit juice, cake, jam, biscuits, molasses, soda and packaged cereal.  It’s advised to limit consumption of simple carbohydrates as they are known to have limited nutritional value and be composed of either 1 or 2 sugars (i.e. glucose+fructose).

The 2 types of simple carbohydrates are monosaccharides and disaccharides.  Since they are not complex in structure they are digested through the body quicker than complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates are composed of at least two or more of sugar strung together.  The two major types of complex carbohydrates are starch and fiber.  Starch must be broken down through own’s digestive tract before one can use it as an energy source.  Fiber can either be insoluable or soluable.  Insoluable fiber can be find in whole wheat bread, barley, brown rice, couscous, bulgur or whole grain cereals, wheat bran, seed, most vegetables and fruits. As a gel,  soluable fiber delaying gastric emptying and helps maintain a healthy weight as sources of soluable fiber keeps one feeling full longer (i.e. oatmeal, apples, pears, peas).

Original Image by Kenneth Leung via Flickr

Sources of complex carbs:

  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Peas

Complex carbohydrates have an added bonus of fiber, without added sugar and contains whole grains.   Since they are composed of more than 2 or more sugars, it takes longer to digest and stabilizes blood sugar longer than simple carbs.

To avoid added sources of sugar, look out for these key words on the ingredients list of food products: glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrates, corn syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, raw sugar, sucrose, molasses, maltose, lactose, invert sugar, syrup, etc.

So, eliminating carbohydrates completely can deprive one of essential nutrients.    Your body needs carbohydrates to make glucose which is used to fuel your body throughout the day.  If not used immediately, glucose is stored in one’s liver and muscles for later use.

Photo Credit: All Refer


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