Simple Carbs vs. Complex Carbs

If you care about nutrition, simple carbs vs. complex carbs is an important distinction to make – after all, not all carbs are made the same way! Find out more about the difference between simple carbs vs. complex carbs – and why you should reach for the complex kind when you're in need of some food to fuel you up.

The most immediate difference between simple carbs vs. complex carbs is the structure. Simple carbs consist of either just one unit of sugar, or multiple strung together but in an amount less than 20. Complex carbs, on the other hand, consist of

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at least 20 units, and often over 100. Since they have different forms, the body breaks them down differently, and therefore digests them differently. Carbohydrate breakdown results in glucose; when glucose enters the bloodstream, that sends a signal to the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin's job is to take the glucose to the muscle or fat cells it needs to go to in order to preserve the proper blood glucose range.

When glucose quickly enters the bloodstream, as it does after eating simple carbs like cookies and candy, more insulin is released in order to rapidly send the glucose off on its merry way. Too much insulin production burdens the pancreas and can cause problems with glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, which in itself can have an effect on the potential of developing type 2 diabetes, among other things.

Complex carbs, as you might have guessed, more slowly release glucose into the bloodstream, which makes for more stable blood glucose levels and improved overall health.

Another thing highly affected by simple vs. complex carbs is energy levels. If you reach for the simple carbs after skipping a meal, glucose will be quickly released both into and out of the bloodstream, having an effect on glucose levels. Repeatedly going for simple carbs, then, will cause your energy levels to vacillate between up and down throughout the day.

It's not just energy levels, though. Simple carbs don't take as long to digest, which means that you will feel hungry again much sooner if that's what you're snacking on. Complex carbs, on the other hand, take longer to break down. Complex carbs also often contain fiber, which slows digestion and allows you to feel fuller for longer.

Last, but assuredly not least, the nutrient content of simple carbs vs. complex carbs is yet another major difference between the two. White bread, for example, is the king of simple carbs; processing the grain strips it of nutrients and fiber that are essential to a nourishing diet. Go for nutrient-dense whole grains instead!

Simple Carbs:

Simple Carbs vs. Complex CarbsWhite rice

White bread

White pasta

Candy and cookies

Pastries and desserts

Fruit juice

Sports drinks

Soda

Artificial syrups

Sugar

Honey

Complex Carbs:

Simple Carbs vs. Complex CarbsBrown rice

Oats

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Carrots

Squash

Green vegetables

Beans, lentils, peas

Quinoa

Whole grains

Sweet potatoes

Note on fruit:
Apples, oranges, berries, bananas, and virtually all other fruits are technically simple carbs, but they are much more beneficial because they contain a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

When it comes to simple carbs vs. complex carbs, you know where to turn if you want a healthy diet! You don't need to completely remove simple carbs from your diet, especially in moderation, but if you want to increase your energy levels and feel fuller for longer, complex carbs are the way to go. Load up your meal management bags with your favorite complex carbs and get ready to kick ass!

 

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