What Are Complex Carbohydrates and Why Do We Need Them?

Heard someone mention "complex carbs", and you wondered what they were talking about?

Carbohydrates are either simple or complex. At first glance, you may think that simple carbohydrates are better for your body. They break down to simple components, so doesn't it make sense that these would be healthy for you? Actually, the opposite is true.

The Difference Between Complex (Good) and Simple (Bad) Carbohydrates

Complex and simple carbohydrates very differ in how they absorb into your body. They are also digested different. Think of simple carbohydrates as simple sugars. Simple carbohydrates provide quick energy, and deliver no nutrition. Complex carbohydrates deliver lots of nutrients and minerals, as well as energy.

Complex carbohydrates have longer molecular chains. So it takes your body a long time to break them down and absorb them. This leads to an even distribution of energy over a longer period of time, and a much longer feeling of fullness. Simple carbohydrates, like those delivered by refined sugar, enter your bloodstream immediately. They process quick, have little nutritional value, and lead to fat storage. They lead to short spikes in energy and an energy crash.

Why Your Body Needs Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are important for a few reasons. As mentioned above, they are nutrient and mineral rich. They contain the vitamins and phytonutrients your body needs for proper function.

They are usually also very high in dietary fiber. Fiber helps your digestive system work well. Dietary fiber also helps you regulate your body weight. Complex carbs provide energy that remains consistent over a longer period of time.

"Good" carbs promote proper sleep, boosted brain function and a healthy nervous system. Often they are also low in calories, as opposed to unhealthy simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates deliver much-needed benefits that promote inner and outer health.

Some Examples of Complex Carbohydrates

This list includes some complex carbohydrates you need to eat more of for health.
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Broccoli
  • Oatmeal
  • Spinach
  • Brown rice
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Soy Milk
  • Whole Grains
Quinoa in a salad

Simple Carbohydrates to Avoid

Avoid or limit the following simple carbs. Your health and waistline will thank you.
  • Sugar
  • White carbohydrates – rice, bread, pasta
  • Potatoes - A complex carbohydrate that acts like simple carb in your body
  • Desserts, pastries
  • Artificial syrups
  • Candy and cookies
  • Soda and energy drinks
Take care and be well.
Tommy Douglas


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