Carbohydrates are organic compounds in tissues or food that can be broken down to be one of the main sources of energy for humans or animals. Classified as simple or complex, carbohydrates are mainly starches and sugars.

  • Simple carbohydrates consist of only one or two sugars and include foods such as white flour and fructose.
  • Complex carbohydrates consist of three or more sugars and they are fiber-rich.

Common Complex Carbohydrates


  • Low fat yogurt
  • Skim milk

Nuts, Seeds and Legumes

  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Chick peas
  • Split peas
  • Soy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Soymilk

Whole Grain Breads and Pastas

  • Breads and pastas made with the whole grains listed below provide more fiber resulting in feeling full sooner, and longer.

Whole Grains

  • Buckwheat
  • Brown rice
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Dill pickles
  • Carrots
  • Yams
  • Strawberries
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Grapefruit
  • Prunes

Consuming Complex Carbohydrates

Consuming carbohydrates is important to ensuring the body has what it needs to operate at peak performance.
Here are some examples of the reasons to consume complex carbohydrates rather than their simple counterparts:

  • Keep the body fueled for an extended period of time

Reaching for simple carbohydrates may be a quick way to fill your stomach or to fulfill a craving, but the simple sugars are quick to digest, allowing hunger to quickly return.
Complex carbohydrates take a longer time to digest and therefore are key to fulfilling hunger as well as providing a long lasting source of energy.

  • Digest Better

Because complex carbohydrates often have lots of fiber, consuming them bulks up stool allowing it to move more smoothly through the digestive tract. When this occurs, less bloating and gas exist, constipation can be improved, and more toxins are removed from the body.

  • Lose Weight

Eating complex carbs helps you to feel full faster and for a longer period of time. As a result, cravings are lessened and the need to reach for unhealthy snacks between planned meals is diminished. Instead of reaching for a simple carbohydrate, snacking on complex carbohydrates or building them into your meals is an easy way to stay on track with your weight loss or maintenance goals.

  • Keep Your Heart Healthy

A diet rich in vegetables has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol and help prevent against angina and heart attack by lowering blood pressure. These complex carbohydrates can help to keep your heart healthy. Whole grains and legumes also help to protect the heart by lowering cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risk as well.

Substitutions to Eat More Complex Carbohydrates

In order to achieve the benefits of eating more complex carbohydrates, it might be necessary to make some switches. Here are some examples of easy substitutions:

  • Instead of white bread and pasta, switch to whole grain bread and pasta (if the switch is intimidating at first, try mixing half whole grain and half white when making your pastas).
  • Instead of munching on chips, try raw vegetables.
  • Instead of rice, try eating more beans as a base for dishes.

Now that you know about complex carbohydrates, check out these examples of carbohydrates.

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