The Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

If you’ve ever tried to give up carbohydrates for a diet, you’ve realized just how many foods contain carbohydrates in one form or another. Carbohydrates are found in plant sources from vegetables to whole grains, and while some have disputed their place in our diets, here is some scientific information that you will want to consider before you pass on the bread basket.

Like many structures in the body, carbohydrates are chain like structures that come in two different forms: simple and complex. As the names indicate, the simple carbohydrates are simpler structures and are more easily broken down – think about sugar, candies, and sweets. And complex carbohydrates are more complicated structures that are harder to break down – whole grains, wheat, and legumes.

Carbohydrates are the main supplies of energy in the body. As the body breaks apart the carbohydrate links, it releases glucose and ATP into the body for it to use. Without this chemical reaction, life could not go on as every reaction and function in the body needs this fuel in order to continue.

What’s the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates?

Besides the chemical structures of simple and complex carbohydrates, a person that eats simple carbohydrates will be using a simple form of energy consumption that is quick-acting, but will not last long. This is the reason for the sugar crash that you feel after eating a large amount of sugar.

Because these are simpler structures, you get to the glucose more easily; however it doesn’t last long because the structure is already broken down. When you eat complex carbohydrates – whole grains, beans – you are taking in complicated structures that provide balanced energy over a longer period of time. This is because those structures take longer to break down.

Instead of prescribing to an all or nothing approach to carbohydrates, it tends to more realistic to understand that simple carbohydrates aren’t as nutritious or as energy producing in a normal diet. You only get the effect of the simple carbohydrates on the short term and need to have more in order to keep your energy up.

When you eat complex carbohydrates, you can eat a smaller amount and have a more even keeled energy, resulting in a diminished need to eat more – and stopping the cycle of refueling your body is helpful in watching your calories and your weight.

Why do low carbohydrate diets work so well for losing weight?

While it might seem that carbohydrates are actually causing you to gain weight, and that is why the high protein diets work, this isn’t the case. When you limit yourself to one food group (i.e. proteins), you are generally limiting your calories as well – leading to weight loss.

Also, this change in eating leads to dehydration in the body, while also shows up as weight loss. In the end, your body will need carbohydrates in some form in order to be healthy- so why not learn to eat complex, long burning carbohydrates instead of the sweets that you’ve been eating?

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