What Are Complex Carbohydrates?
What are complex carbohydrates? You may have been told by a friend that complex carbohydrates are a lot better for you than simple carbs. In this article, we will examine exactly what complex carbohydrates are and their benefits.
Not All Carbs Are Created Equal
All of our food sources are made up of three macronutrients: Carbohydrate, protein and fat. However not all carbohydrates are created equal and can be further categorized as either complex or simple. Simple carbohydrates are monosaccharides, or single sugar molecules: Fructose, glucose and galactose. They also include disaccharides, which are made up of two sugar molecules. Table sugar is a good example of this: It is fructose linked with glucose.
What Are Complex Carbohydrates: A Breakdown
Complex carbs on the other hand are polysaccharides, which means “many sugars”. This means that complex carbohydrates are essentially several simple sugar molecules linked together. Polysaccharides can be made up of 10,000 simple sugar molecules, all linked together. Both fibre and starch are complex carbs, as they are polysaccharides.
What Should I Choose? Simple Or Complex Carbohydrates?
There are two reasons why when given the choice, you should choose complex carbohydrate foods over simple carbohydrate foods.
Firstly, it takes a longer time for complex carbs to be broken down into glucose in your blood. This will provide you with prolonged energy and help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Simple carbohydrate foods are renowned for spiking blood sugar levels which is bad for your health if it happens too often.
Secondly there is more nutritional value in complex carbohydrates. They tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals and fibre than their simple carbohydrate counterparts.
Starch: Complex Or Not?
Starch is a complex carbohydrate, however the complexity of starch based foods can vary. In other words, not all starches are created equal. Whole grains are more complex than processed grains and thus a better choice for most people.
Refined grains are digested faster by the body than whole grains, as they have had parts of the grain removed, meaning that your body does not have to work as hard to break them down. Choose whole grains such as steel cut oats, brown rice and brown pasta over refined carbs such as white rice and white bread.
Whole grains contain all parts of the grain, including the germ, the endosperm and the bran. The outer layer of a whole grain is made up of the bran and contains most of the fibre, B vitamins and minerals. The next layer is made up of the germ, which contains vitamin E and essential fatty acids. The starchy middle of the grain is known as the endosperm.
The complex carbohydrate food group is not made up of unrefined whole grains exclusively. Other examples of foods containing complex carbs include: vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans nuts and seeds.