Complex vs. Simple
Carbohydrates are the body’s source of energy. Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars that are easily broken down and transformed into energy. Complex carbs are chains of simple sugars, such as starches. They take longer for the body to breakdown, providing a more sustained source of energy. Natural sources of complex carbohydrates, such as beans, vegetables, and unrefined grains tend to be very good sources of nutrients and fiber. High-fiber foods are essential for well-being, promoting healthy digestion, reducing the risk of heart disease, managing body weight, and balancing blood sugar levels. Make sure you are including foods from this list of complex carbs in your well-balanced diet.
Whole grains are some of the best sources of complex carbohydrates. A whole grain is not refined, meaning that all the parts of the plant (germ, endosperm, bran, and husk) are still intact. This translates into a very high nutrition and fiber content.
- Oats — One cup of cooked, whole grain oats is an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, tryptophan, and vitamin B1. There are about two grams of dietary fiber and 25 grams of complex carbohydrates.
- Brown rice — One cup of brown rice, cooked, is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and selenium. There are four grams of fiber and 40 grams of complex carbohydrates.
- Barley — One cup of iron, manganese, and B vitamin rich barley contains six grams of fiber and 38 grams of complex carbohydrates.
- Whole wheat bread — One slice of whole wheat bread is a great source of complex carbohydrates, with 12 grams, and also two grams of fiber. Whole wheat bread is also rich in iron, B vitamins, and manganese.
- Rye bread — One slice has 12 grams of complex carbohydrates and two grams of fiber. Rye is also a good source of iron, selenium, manganese, and potassium.
According to the USDA food pyramid, a healthy diet includes six to eleven servings of grains a day. Go for whole grain, unrefined complex carb sources for optimal well-being.
Legumes are also a great source of complex carbohydrates. Packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, eating beans regularly is a great way to improve well-being.
- Lentils — One cup of cooked lentils is an incredible source of iron, folate, copper, and manganese. There are 16 grams of fiber, which is well over half of the daily recommended requirement, and 20 grams of complex carbohydrates.
- Lima beans — One cup cooked supplies 13 grams of dietary fiber and 21 grams of complex carbohydrates. Lima beans are good sources of iron, B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.
- Peas — Cooked green beans have nine grams of dietary fiber and seven grams of complex carbohydrates for every cup. They are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, and folate.
- Black beans — A cup of cooked black beans has 15 grams of fiber and 26 grams of complex carbohydrates, as well as iron, calcium, folate, magnesium, and manganese.
High-starch vegetables are also good sources of energy-sustaining complex carbs, as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Sweet potatoes — One medium sweet potato is packed with beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. There are four grams of dietary fiber and 13 grams of complex carbohydrates.
- Acorn squash – One cup of cubed winter acorn squash has nine grams of fiber and 21 grams of complex carbohydrates. This vegetable is also a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, folate, and potassium.
- Yellow corn — One cup cooked has five grams of dietary fiber and about 31 grams of complex carbohydrates. Corn is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and several of the B vitamins.
Include foods from this list of complex carbs in your diet. They are not the only great sources of complex carbohydrates — when searching for healthy carbs to make up part of your diet go for the natural, unrefined grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.
UC Berkeley Wellness Letter https://www.wellnessletter.com/html/fw/fwNut03Carbs.html
University of California <www.dining.ucla.edu/housing_site/…pdf/ComplexityOfCarbs.pdf>
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
photo by Ross Elliott
photo by Dave Shafer