Complex or Simple Carbohydrates – Which One Should You Eat?

Carbohydrates have, over the recent years, garnered an unfair reputation of being bad for your health. The fact remains that carbohydrates are one of the major macronutrients and one of the primary sources of energy for your body. Nowadays there are many weight loss programs that actively discourage the consumption of carbohydrates, but the fact remains that the right kind of carbs is vital for your health and for keeping your body running smoothly. It is not just the quantity of carbohydrates that is important for your body, but also the quality of carbohydrates you consume that make a whole world of difference to your health. There are two types of carbohydrates – complex carbs and simple carbs. It is believed that eating complex carbs is better for your health than eating simple carbs. However, what is the difference between the two and which should you really eat? Let’s find out.

What Are Simple Carbohydrates?

Simply put, simple carbohydrates are sugars. Simple carbohydrates are composed of just one or two molecules of sugar and due to this, the body is able to break it down very easily. They are then easily absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a rapid increase in your blood sugar. Some of these occur naturally such as in milk, but most of them usually get added to foods. Some of the most common simple carbohydrates that are added to foods are-

  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Corn Syrup
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose

What Are Complex Carbohydrates?

Complex carbohydrates are known to pack in more nutrients as compared to simple carbohydrates. Compared to simple carbs, these are higher in fiber content and take a longer time to get digested. This makes complex carbs more filling, making them a good option for weight control. Complex carbs are also ideal for people who have type 2 diabetes since they help control blood sugar fluctuations, especially after a meal.

Starch and fiber are two of the main types of complex carbohydrates and fiber are especially important because it controls cholesterol and also promotes regular bowel movements.

What Simple Carbohydrate Foods Should You Avoid?

You should try and avoid the commonly available refined sources of simple carbohydrates and try to opt for healthier alternatives, especially for satisfying your sweet tooth. Let’s take a look at some of the common simple carb foods to avoid.

Soda- Sugar beverages such as soda is extremely bad for your health and not just because of the sugar content in them. Instead of sugary sodas, you should opt for having plain water flavored with lemon instead.

Baked Goods- Satisfying your sweet craving with a piece of fruit will prove to be more beneficial than turning towards baked treats such as donuts, cakes, and pastries, etc. Baked treats are the worst type of simple carbs you can have as they are powerhouses of added sugars.

Fruit Juice Concentrate- You can avoid having fruit juice concentrate by carefully reading the nutrition label. You should opt for either making fruit juice at home by yourself or choose to buy 100 percent pure fruit juice.

Packaged Cookies- Instead of buying prepacked cookies, try to bake your own cookies with healthier substitutes such as applesauce or natural sweeteners. You can also look for cookie mixes that contain a healthy level of complex carbohydrates.

Breakfast Cereals- Most of the breakfast cereals available in stores these days are full of simple carbohydrates. If you are unable to kick the habit of starting your day with a bowl full of simple carbs, then try to choose the healthier option available amongst these.

Main Sources of Dietary Fiber (Complex Carb)

As mentioned above, there are two types of complex carbohydrates, starch, and fiber. Some of the primary sources of dietary fiber you can include into your meals include-

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts

Main Sources of Starch (Complex Carb)

Starch is also found in many of the same foods that contain fiber. The only difference is that some foods are thought to be starchier rather than being fibrous, such as potatoes. Some of the main sources of high-starch foods include-

  • Cereal
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Rice
  • Peas
  • Oats
  • Corn

Complex carbohydrates are important for maintaining your overall health and it also makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the biggest risk factors for many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and many others.

Consuming complex carbohydrates regularly will also help you prevent chronic lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular conditions in the future and ensure that in the long run, you are able to remain fit and healthy.

Complex Carbohydrates You Need To Eat More Of

You should include the following sources of complex carbohydrates more in your regular diet-

Fiber-rich fruits– Fresh fruits and vegetables are perhaps the healthiest foods you can eat to gain all the nutrients that your body needs. Fiber-rich fruits are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. These include apples, bananas, and berries, to mention just a few.

Fiber-rich Vegetables– Though all fresh vegetables are good for your health, you should increase your intake of leafy green vegetables, carrots, and broccoli if you want to consume more complex carbs.

Whole Grains– These are the best source of fiber, magnesium, selenium, and even potassium, a variety of minerals that your body needs for day-to-day functioning. Opt for including lesser of the processed whole grains such as buckwheat, whole-wheat pasta, and quinoa.

Beans– These are not only a great source of fiber, but also include high quantities of folate, potassium, and iron.


Choosing the correct type of carbohydrate will become easier as you keep consciously making a decision to eat healthily. With a little practice, you will begin to understand which type of carb is good for you and which is only going to add on the calories. Keep a keen eye on the food labels and do a little bit of research in order to make healthier choices and keep your body energized with the intake of the correct type of carbohydrate.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 17, 2019

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