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Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates

There are two different categories for carbohydrates. These are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. If you are into your science, you may know that these categories are based upon the chemical makeup and structure of the carbohydrates. But it is also related to how efficiently the carbohydrate is digested and absorbed in the body. Getting the right balance of these two carbohydrates is an important part of a healthy diet. You may see simple carbohydrates sometimes referred to as simple sugars. In terms of their chemistry, they are only made up of a few different types of sugars. This is why they are simple sugars! Because they are made up of only a few strands of sugars, the body can break them down and absorb them rapidly. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are made up of several linked sugars. They are more challenging to break down, so take longer for the body to absorb. What this means is that complex carbohydrates provide slow release energy. Slow release energy lasts a long time and keeps you going without causing sudden spikes in sugar levels. This helps to prevent Diabetes as well as fatigue. Some forms of simple carbohydrates are good for you. For example, fruit and milk can be called simple carbohydrates. These are obviously good for you and have a place in a varied and nutritious diet. They are staples of most weight loss diets too. However, the majority of simple carbohydrates are less friendly to a healthy diet. Mainly, this is because sugar itself is a simple sugar. This may sound obvious, but it means that many sugar-based foods will be simple carbohydrates. This includes sweets, syrups, sweet drinks, and chocolate.


Your body absorbs these very quickly, giving you a sugar high followed by an energy crash. Fruit and milk do not do this and are nutrient dense, so consider mainly eating these forms of simple carbohydrates. When you think of starchy carbohydrates, you are also thinking of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates can include staples such as pasta, rice, bread and oats. But some vegetables such as broccoli and root vegetables also count. Legumes and pulses like chickpeas or butter beans also classify as complex carbohydrates. All these foods are very filling and satisfying and provide you with long lasting energy. This is because the complex sugars they are made up of taking a while to be broken down and absorbed by the body, preventing blood sugar spikes or fatigue. With complex carbohydrates, it is best to avoid refined versions of certain foods. Whole grains are superior to refined grains because they provide more nutrition and are even more complex. They break down more slowly than refined grains. White bread is often very refined and can be a poor source of energy and satiety. However, whole grain bread is very filling and nutritious and will provide you with long lasting energy. So swap refined complex carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta, or white rice for whole grain bread and pasta, or brown rice.