Unlocking the Secret to Long-Lasting Energy - Discover Why Complex Carbs Trump Simple Carbs

Complex carbohydrates are considered better than simple carbs since they take longer to break down and digest. The slowing digestion rate leads to a sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream, helping regulate blood sugar levels.

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Unlocking the Secret to Long-Lasting Energy - Discover Why Complex Carbs Trump Simple Carbs
4 Min Read May 8th, 2023 Updated:February 9th, 2024

For all of us who enjoy food, we most definitely love carbs! Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that is required by the body for energy. However, most people live with the notion that carbs are bad. But this isn't true. It completely depends on finding and eating the "good carbs."

You might have heard that you must eat complex carbs rather than simple carbs. But what is the difference between these? Let's understand better.

Simple Carbs vs. Complex Carbs

Carbohydrates are made of three main components – fiber, starch, and sugar. 

Complex carbs consist of fiber, starch, and sugars, which take the body a while to break down. Complex carbs are more nutritious and healthy owing to their high fiber and starch content. This makes your body digest complex carbs slowly, resulting in easy satiety. Complex carbs include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. 

On the other hand, simple carbs contain only sugars which are easily broken down by the body. These include foods like raw sugar, brown sugar, glucose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, fruits, milk, and milk products.  

However, it's not always easy to differentiate between simple carbs and complex carbs. You need to understand the glycemic index of each of the foods you consume to know what effect they have on your body.

What is Glycemic Index?

Glycemic Index (GI) is the rating system used for foods containing carbohydrates. Knowing the glycemic index, you can measure how quickly your blood sugar levels rise based on the food you eat. And this can help you manage your food intake better. 

Foods rich in carbs and sugar usually have a higher GI as compared to foods high in protein, fats, or fiber. The higher the GI range, the higher the spikes in your blood sugar levels. Hence, it is necessary to consume foods with a lower GI. And most complex carbs have a low GI.

The GI ranges can be categorized as follows:

  • Low GI: 55 or less
  • Medium GI: 56-69
  • High GI: 70 or above

It is also important to note that glycemic load (GL) differs from the glycemic index. GL factors in the amount of food eaten and the carb count in each serving to determine its effect on your blood sugar levels.

Hence, it is necessary that you consider the glycemic index and glycemic load while selecting healthy carbs for managing your blood sugar levels. Simply put, simple carbs are usually on the higher side of the glycemic index, whereas complex carbs have a lower glycemic index.

Benefits of Complex Carbs

  • Provides energy: You need carbs for your daily energy. Glucose from these carbs is the prime source for this; instead of consuming simple carbs that can increase your blood sugar levels instantly, consume complex carbs. They take longer to digest; hence your fuel is sustainable for a longer time. You can exercise on a budget elliptical or a long stride elliptical after consuming a snack made of complex carbs for prolonged energy and max results.
  • Easy satiety: As mentioned, complex carbs take longer to digest, so you end up feeling full for a longer time. You don't overeat and are able to stick to your healthy diet plan.
  • Manages weight: High-fiber foods are low in calories promoting lesser calorie intake. They are also slowly digested, leading to better satiety levels. Thus promoting weight loss.
  • Muscle growth: Protein is essential for muscle growth. Carbs are necessary for optimizing recovery in your body. Eating complex carbs post your workout replenishes your body's glycogen stores and puts your body into a state of building muscles. You should also try to include a pre-workout supplement to ensure you get maximum results from your workout session.
  • Regulates blood sugar levels: Since complex carbs are broken down slowly, your blood sugar levels rise steadily and slowly. Thus it regulates blood sugars better.
  • Promotes digestive health: Complexcarbs are rich in fiber which promotes bowel health. The fiber in veggies, fruits, and nuts is bulk-forming and insoluble. This helps boost gut health and form soft stools. A fiber-rich diet also protects you from colon diseases, hemorrhoids, and colorectal cancer.

Sources of Complex Carbs

Focus on including the following complex carbs in your daily diet:

  1. Whole grains: Wheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, millets, barley, whole-grain cereals, and whole-grain bread. 
  2. Starchy vegetables: Beets, butternut squash, corn, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, zucchini, and pumpkin.
  3. Fiber-rich vegetables: Cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and leafy greens.
  4. Fiber-rich fruits: Oranges, bananas, apples, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and pears.           
  5. Beans & legumes: Lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, peas, and soybeans.
  6. Nuts & seeds: Almonds, pistachios, pecans, cashew nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.

What's Your Final Takeaway?

Focus on eating the above complex carbs in your salads, smoothies, curries, and rice. Ensure that you check your food's glycemic index and glycemic load to understand the benefits of each food type. Not all complex carbs are healthy. Opt for healthier options and eat what suits you and your body.

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About the Author

Khushali Shah is the co-owner of Healthy and Khush, a blog that shares science-based tips. Having struggled with weight loss her whole life, she lost over 25kgs in the last few years.

LTC News Contributor Khushali Shah

Khushali Shah

Contributor since May 8th, 2023

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