Complex Carbs vs Simple Carbs: Is There a Difference?

Complex Carbs vs Simple Carbs: Is There a Difference?One health article recently told you that simple carbs are ok to eat, while another health article told you that carbs are the root of all evil.  So, with all this confusion, what is the truth regarding carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a basic form of energy one must consume in order to maintain proper health.  They are a form of sugar and some carbohydrates include starches.  There are differing forms of carbohydrates as well.  Simple carbs include the sugars which are broken down in the body quickly (these include fructose, glucose, and galactose).  Some types of foods typically considered a simple carb are candy, sugary drinks, and anything considered junk food.  Another form of carb is a complex carb, which consists of starches and macromolecule sugar compounds (which include sucrose, maltose, and lactose) which take longer to process in the body.  Some foods which are classified as complex include potatoes, rice, and pasta.  While carbs are necessary to sustain life, there is a particular type which you ought to eat more of.

Complex vs Simple Carbs

When the body consumes a sugary substance, it needs to process the compound to its smallest forms in order to absorb and store it.  In response of consuming a sugary treat, the body releases insulin.  The level at which the body releases insulin in response of a feeding refers to the glycemic index, or the level of sugar released in the blood is response to a feeding.  There are high glycemic foods and low glycemic index foods.  Foods with a high glycemic index have been known to increase the risk of type II diabetes and heart disease [1].  In contrast, foods lower on the glycemic index scale help increase one’s overall management of blood glucose and essentially limiting the risk of heart disease and type II diabetes.  A basic glycemic index chart can be found here and it should help guide your decisions when consuming a carbohydrate.

So now that the glycemic index is accounted for, one must consider which food is best for health.  A simple carb will typically be higher on the glycemic index chart whereas foods lower on the chart will be mostly the complex carbs consisting of whole wheat, which are also considered heart healthy and better overall for your health.  With that said, choosing foods ought to be a little simpler.  Complex carbs are better managed in the body and simple carbs are damaging to the body’s inner physiology.

Maintain your Energy Levels

Another important matter in the decision of carbohydrates is how it affects energy levels in the body.  A complex carb provides ample energy, which is slowly digested in the body whereas a simple carb is quickly passed through the system.  This can wreak some serious havoc on your energy levels throughout the day.  Consume a soda early in the day and you are sure to be crashing by mid-morning.  This is not due to a lack of caffeine in your body; rather it is because eating simple carbs can deplete and suck your energy from your body, causing you to want to be lazy and rest.  Anyone addicted to soda knows how this feels, which means more needs to be consumed in order to maintain energy throughout the day.


While many things are good in moderation, there is still some level of discipline needed when eating any food.  Just because a food is lower on the glycemic index scale, does not mean one should eat more of it.  The scale is only important if moderation is practiced during feeding.  When proper eating habits and behaviors are used, the body can be at its most efficient state.

Challenge Yourself

If you are attempting to change your diet composition, consider tracking what kind of foods you consume.  Challenge yourself over the next month to write down all that you eat and tally the amount of complex carbs you eat compared to the simple carbs.  Which do you consume more of?  How does this affect your energy?  If you consume more simple carbs, consider eating more whole wheat foods and more complex carbs.





About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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