Carbohydrates are often associated with a negative connotation as it’s known for making people overweight. However, having a better understanding of the role of what carbohydrates does to our diet and health is important, as carbs are essential for your health.

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Simple vs complex carbohydrates can be very easily mistaken for each other. It’s important to know the difference of simple vs complex carbohydrates as they have very different causes to our health. In this article, we’ll break down the main differences and how you can improve your diet.

The Importance of Carbohydrates

Simple vs complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient for the body as it is the main source of energy for all your body functions. Carbohydrates provide energy for your brain, organs, and joints.

Carbohydrates also play an essential role in digestion. Carbohydrates can also help with muscle growth and healthy weight management. Carbohydrates are also important for people looking to improve and sustain athletic performance. To learn more about the importance of carbohydrates for health, read our blog here.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple vs complex carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are often sugar and can naturally occur in milk. This is the type of carbohydrate you should look to avoid. Simple carbohydrates are made up of shorter chain molecules, making them quick and easy to digest. This will lead to Short term spikes of energy, most commonly referred to as ‘sugar rush’.

Simple carbohydrates will easily spike blood glucose and can rapidly make you gain weight as most of its food sources are calorically dense. Most simpler carb foods are heavily processed and added to whole foods as flavour enhancers. 

Simple carbohydrates you should avoid or limit include:

  • Sugar
  • Fruit juice
  • Packaged cookies
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Soda and fizzy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Sweets and candy
  • Sugar syrups
  • Condensed milk
  • Sauces

Simple carbohydrates must be limited to avoided entirely as they can result in adverse health effects if not well regulated. Some of the health complications associated with excess consumption of complex carbohydrates include:

  • Poor digestion and constipation
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

As simple carbohydrates are mainly just different forms of sugar, always be cautious when buying food and reading nutrition labels. Here are a couple of things to look out for and avoid when reading nutrition labels for simple carbohydrate types including:

  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Powder sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Agave nectar

Complex Carbohydrates

Simple vs complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates have a longer chain or molecules, making them longer to digest. This is better for your health as opposed to simple carbohydrates as the energy is slower releasing and can sustain you throughout the day without experiencing crashes.

Complex carbohydrates are more nutritious and contain a great amount of fibre, making it slower digesting. Complex carbohydrates are helpful for people controlling diabetes, blood sugar levels, and bowel regulation.

Complex carbohydrate foods you should eat more of in your diet include:

  • Whole-grain bread
  • Whole-grain cereal
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Lentils
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Whole grain pasta

Some of the main benefits of eating complex carbohydrates include:

  • Manage and suppress appetite
  • Complex carb foods often contain other healthy nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to help you reach your daily recommended intake
  • Less likely to cause blood sugar spikes
  • Reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases
  • Promote a healthier and smoother running digestive system
  • Can reduce inflammation

How to Diet with Carbohydrates

Simple vs complex carbohydrates

Having simple carbohydrates isn’t a crime. As long as you balance it out with complex carbohydrates and healthy foods, you will be fine. You can also manipulate your carbohydrate intake based on your diet goals.

Some people tend to cut out carbohydrates completely and eat more protein and fat while others may do the opposite. Complex carbohydrates are a much better option for people looking to lose weight.

When trying to stick to a diet, the type of carbohydrates shouldn’t be the main focus. It should be the number of calories you are getting and the ratio of carbs to protein and fat you are sticking to.

When to See a Doctor?

Simple vs complex carbohydrates

If you aren’t sure how to diet or how carbohydrates may be affecting your diet and health, speak with your doctor. Speaking with your doctor will allow you to identify what dietary requirements are specific to your personal health.

When To Consult A Doctor?

Do not hesitate to speak with a Diet specialist who can advise you on the best nutrition diet, exercise type, and other healthy lifestyle tips you can incorporate on a daily basis.

Go to or download our Mobile App and book an appointment with a Dietetics & Nutrition doctor instantly.