What is the difference between Complex and Simple carbs?
Complex carbohydrates require longer to process than simple carbohydrates to have a more consistent source of nutrition. Foods like bread and pasta contain complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates can be found in a number of foods, including table sugar and syrups.
Simple carbohydrates have longer sugar molecule chains than complex carbohydrates. These sugar molecules are converted into glucose, which the body uses for energy. Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down and have more long-lasting nutrition in the body than simple carbohydrates since their chains are longer.
**This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.**
Both forms of carbohydrate can be found in a variety of foods. These foods have a variety of health-promoting properties in addition to providing energy through glucose.
The differences between simple and complex carbohydrates will be discussed in this article, as well as whether one is better than the other.
Related: Complex Carbohydrates Explained
Which one is better? Complex Carbohydrates or Simple Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the primary source of nutrition in the body. Complex carbohydrates are a greater source of nutrition than simple carbohydrates. However, it is more difficult to say in terms of overall nutrition.
Simple carbohydrates, also known as sugars, are made up of shorter molecules that digest faster than complex carbohydrates.
This means that simple carbohydrates cause a rise in blood glucose, providing a short-term source of energy to the body.
The so-called “sugar rush” that people have long claimed occurs when eating such simple carbs, such as a chocolate bar or a sugary drink, is caused by the initial rush of energy.
However, a study of experiments involving 1,259 subjects conducted in 2019 showed no support for this, with carbohydrates causing no immediate changes in mood or activity levels. Instead, after 30 to 60 minutes, the review discovered a drop in alertness and a rise in exhaustion.
Complex carbs increase blood glucose levels over a prolonged period of time to have a longer-lasting energy boost. Carbohydrates’ primary purpose is to supply energy to the body, and complex carbohydrates do it more efficiently.
However, the type of carbohydrate-containing food must be considered.
Some simple carbohydrates can be contained in nutritious foods like milk and whole fruits, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Simple carbs, on the other hand, may be included in items of poor nutritional content, such as sugary beverages.
Complex carbohydrates can also be used in low-nutrient packaged foods like refined white flour. Many other complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, can be contained in more nutritious foods.
Fiber, a form of complex carbohydrate and a component of plant-based foods, is a good example of this. Fiber is important for sustaining a healthy digestive system.
Complex carbohydrates are more energy-dense than simple carbohydrates, however they are not necessarily healthier.
Simple carbohydrates are better in some ways than complex carbohydrates. As a result, instead of focusing on a single nutrient, such as the kind of carbohydrate it contains, people should understand the total nutritional composition of each food they would want to eat.
Related: Complex Carbohydrates Explained
Whole-food complex carbohydrates are generally very nutritious.
Whole-grain foods, for example, have a coating of bran and germ that contain fiber, vitamin B and E, phytochemicals, and healthy fats.
They can also lower the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Examples of whole grains are the following:
- Wild rice
- Brown rice
- Bulgur wheat
Refined grains are also complex carbohydrates, but they lack the bran and germ of the grain, and their nutrient value is lower than that of whole-grain foods.
The following are few examples of refined grains:
- White bread
- White rice
- White flour
- Degermed cornmeal
Complex carbohydrates may also be found in vegetables, legumes, and nuts, which are both rich in nutrients. It’s easy to leave the skins on fruits and vegetables before eating them, which improves their nutritious value.
Simple carbs can be found in a variety of foods that are suitable for a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables, for example, contain simple carbohydrates but are high in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber.
Lactose, a form of simple carbohydrate, is found in milk and milk products. While these foods lack fiber, they are high in protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
Processed foods with added sugar are examples of simple carbohydrates to avoid. Sugar raises the calorie content of food by offering no extra nutrients.
There are few examples of such foods:
- Sugary drinks
- Table sugar
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Products with added sugar, such as baked goods or some cereals
Instead of consuming fruit juice, people can try to eat whole fruits wherever possible. Whole fruits are a safer choice since they produce more dietary fibre.
There might be occasions where certain varieties of less nutritious, simple carbohydrates are helpful. Many sports drinks, for example, have a lot of sugar added to them. These beverages are sold as performance enhancers and rehydration aids by their manufacturers.
However, there is inadequate evidence to support their usefulness. In a systematic study of 17 studies on the topic, half of the studies showed little change in results. Improvements in the other half ranged from 1% to 13%.
Sports beverages can help athletes perform better, but the impact is likely to be minimal. It’s questionable if this potential advantage outweighs the negative health effects of eating a diet high in added sugar.
Tips for Making Healthy Carb Choices
The resources and tools listed below will assist you in discriminating between complex cabs and simple carbs.
- Turn to technology for support: For a visual approach to food monitoring, try Figwee app. Enter a meal and choose the picture that looks the most like what you’re eating. It will tell you how many carbohydrates are in each food so you can keep track.
- Know how to read product labels: For a detailed explanation of how to read food labels, go to the USDA website.
- Make substitutions: For ideas about how to replace simple carbs with complex carbs, visit Harvard Health Publishing’s website.
- Create a list of helpful websites to bookmark: Consider this NIH web page your hidden tool for determining the serving size and carbohydrate content of various food groups, such as vegetables, fruits, and protein.
- Refresh your knowledge of carbs in general: Check your carbohydrate awareness on the UCSF website.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Since complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, they provide a more sustained supply of energy than simple carbohydrates.
This does not, however, imply that all complex carbohydrates are good for you. Many nutritious foods, such as fruits and milk, contain simple carbohydrates. Refined foods, such as white bread or white rice, can also contain complex carbohydrates.
As a result, it’s important to understand the whole diet rather than just the carbohydrate type it contains.