Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates

You may have heard all sorts of different things on when it is best to eat different types of carbs. But what even are the different types of carbs, and should you be aware of them when you are eating?!

To start from the very beginning, carbohydrates are one of the three (four, if you count alcohol) macronutrients that we consume. They are what our body mostly uses, in a normal diet, for energy for our activities throughout the day. They are sugars that fuel our muscles with glucose, and are found in nearly all foods. Carbohydrates can then be broken down into two different groups, simple or complex.

Simple carbohydrate are those which are quickly digested by our bodies, as they do not have as much fibre or as many nutrients in them. These are the type of sugars that will give you an energy rush, before you find yourself in a slump and wanting more. The reason that they digest so quickly is because they are short-chain sugars (monosaccharides, e.g. glucose, fructose or galactose, or disaccharides, e.g. sucrose, lactose and maltose). Foods that are considered simple carbs include sweets such as cookies, cakes and chocolate, overly processed white grains (white bread), carbonated drinks, most juices, cereals and pastries. Often, these foods have lots of added sugar, as well as any naturally occurring sugars, so are not great options for those looking to lose weight. When eating simple carbs, you will not feel as full and satiated as when eating complex carbs.

Complex carbohydrates are, in opposition to simple carbohydrates, made up of much longer chains of sugars (called polysaccharides). These take a much longer time for our bodies to break down, due to their higher fibre content, and are full of more nutrients for us to absorb. The longer break down time also ensures a much slower release of energy, so we do not get tired as quickly after eating a meal full of complex carbs. These types of foods include anything with wholegrains (quinoa, or wholegrain bread or pasta), fruits and vegetables rich in fibre (leafy greens, bananas, apples and carrots among many) and legumes. If you can, try to consciously eat most of your carbs from this category.

By avoiding lots of simple carbs in your diet, and opting for more complex carbs, you will be left feeling fuller for longer and obtain a greater number of nutrients at the same time. Some simple switches you can make in your diet are changing white rice for brown rice or quinoa, white bread for wholegrain bread, and caffeinated beverages for water. Your body will thank you for the difference that these easy food swaps make, and after you continuously do them for a while, you will become accustomed to them and not feel the need to switch back.

It really is worth making the conscious effort to make these change in your diet, so if you aren’t already, eat more complex carbohydrates! Let me know how your efforts go!



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