What Is the Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbohydrates?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Simple carbohydrates are composed of one or two sugar units that are broken down and digested quickly, which can leave you feeling tired, hungry, and craving more sugar shortly after you’ve eaten. Recent research has shown that certain simple carbohydrate foods can cause extreme surges in blood sugar levels, which also increases insulin release. This can elevate appetite and the risk of excess fat storage.
Simple carbs are mainly added sugars, which have very little nutritional value. They are considered "empty" calories. Types of simple carbs are soda, sweet breakfast cereals, candies, high fructose corn syrup, and more. Fruit is also considered a simple carb, but it is a naturally occurring sugar that is packed with many nutrients.
Complex carbohydrates (also referred to as starch) are made up of multiple sugar units and are found in both natural (brown rice) and refined (white rice) forms. They are structurally more complex and take longer to be broken down and digested, which allows you to feel full longer and gives you lasting energy. Complex carbohydrate foods have been shown to enter the blood stream gradually and trigger only a moderate rise in insulin levels, which stabilizes appetite and results in fewer carbohydrates that are stored as fat.
Choosing the right foods isn't always as simple as choosing complex carbohydrates over simple ones. Case in point: White bread is highly processed but is a complex carbohydrate, and many fruits, which are wholesome and natural, are simple carbohydrates. Certain foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as white potatoes, quickly raise blood sugar levels, while some foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as whole fruit, raise blood sugar levels more slowly.
So which should you choose? Instead of labeling carbohydrates as simple or complex, look at how whole or processed the food actually is. Unrefined or whole-grain carbohydrates found in products like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and bran cereals are digested slowly and contain vitamins, minerals and fiber, which promote health. Fiber and nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and beans, which also contain carbohydrates, also make excellent choices for health and weight loss. Try to limit your intake of highly processed, sweetened and sugary foods and choose the most wholesome and natural foods possible for your health and weight-loss goals.
Learn more about the role carbs play in the body.

Additional Reading:
The Truth about Carbohydrates
Whole Grains are the Whole Package
Healthy Carb, Fat and Protein Ranges

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MUSICNUT 3/2/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
RO2BENT 2/26/2020
Gotta do the hard work Report
Great information. Report
ELRIDDICK 11/18/2019
Thanks for sharing Report
BILLTHOMSON 11/11/2019
Very helpful article. Report
CHIBI88 11/6/2019
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ICECUB 10/19/2019
SHOAPIE 10/19/2019
Great info Report
SPINECCO 10/19/2019
Thanks. Report
PATRICIA-CR 10/19/2019
Nonetheless, some of us do not tolerate complex carbs because of too much fiber. Report
TOKIEMOON 10/19/2019
refined carbs seem to be everywhere. Report
PICKIE98 10/18/2019
No processing: best. Report
BANEWLAND 8/14/2019
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BANEWLAND 8/14/2019
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DEE107 7/25/2019
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Thanks for sharing! Report
I am still not sure about this information and will try to read more about carbs. Certainly a hot topic. Report
Great info! Thanks for sharing. Report
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This is one thing that I had a hard time learning the difference. There was a time when I didn't even know that there was such a thing as simple and complex carbs. I have learned that if I stick with natural foods instead of processed ones, I am making good choices. Report
Most ingredients for cooking from scratch are complex. I avoid all packaged or processed foods, I'm in my kitchen 3 times a day cooking. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
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The only roadblock to success is limited thinking. Report
"high fructose corn syrup, and more. Fruit is also considered a simple carb, but it is a naturally occurring sugar that is packed with many nutrients..."

High fructose corn syrup is made from corn sugars, no different than the sugar in fruit or other starchy vegetables. It only takes one misleading statement to cause me to mistrust the entire article. Report
good info..thanks Report
Thank you. This article answers questions I have had! Report
This is good information and the break down is exactly what I've been needing. Thank you and now, to use it! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I have asked this question multiple times! Report
Instead of moving from the terms simple and complex to whole or unprocessed, to fast and slow acting. What has been referred to as complex carbohydrate is really just fast acting. Most fruit, grain and some vegetables are just that, fast acting. Whole wheat bread and pasta start converting to glucose just from saliva.The nuttiest whole grain bread, Coke and mashed potatoes have the same effect on blood glucose levels. Report