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What Are Simple Carbs and Complex Carbs?

Updated on August 23, 2011

Complex vs Simple Carbs

Ever heard of simple and complex carbs? Carbs, which is short for carbohydrates are your bodies main energy source. Ever wondered if simple and complex carbs are the same thing? Carbohydrates have often been reguarded as an enemy when it comes to losing weight. However, the main reason why they have had a bad reputation is because simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates are not created equal. Understanding the difference is important because they affect your body in different ways.

Simple Carbs Spike your insulin

Simple carbs are often reffered to as the bad carbs. This is because they break down into your body much faster. They cause an insulin spike response. Your blood sugar goes up high. This is not a good thing for managing a healthy weight.

Since simple carbs break down into your system faster, your brain sends a signal to your body telling you that you are hungry. This is one of the reasons why some people might gain fat because their appetite increases, thus they eat more often.

Simple carbs are generally bad for you, however, since they do break down fast, they can give you a lot of energy quickly. This is good if your about to do something physically demanding such as biking, running, etc. However, you may crash later, as a result of taking simple carbs.

White bread (Simple Carb example)

Examples of Simple Carbs

Simple Carbs are foods like white bread, white rice, candy, cake, and all junk food. These are not good foods to be eating if you want to manage your weight. Of course, being active helps burn these extra calories off, but if your a sedentary person, these foods can be your worst enemy. This is likely why carbohydrates have received such a bad reputation because of these foods that break down in your body quickly.

Complex Carbs

Complex Carbs are a healthier source of energy. These break down into your system slowly, giving you energy over a longer period of time. Complex carbs will control your appetite so you do not eat as often. They make you more satisfied, unlike simple carbs, where you crave to eat more and more.These types of carbs are good to eat before bed because they don't spike your insulin like slower digesting foods that may make you pack on fat when sleeping.

Brown Rice (Complex carb example)

Examples of Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. These are healthy foods that will maintain your appetite. They give you a more "satisfied full feeling." Adding these to your diet will help you maintain a healthy weight easier.


Your body needs a certain amount of carbs per day. They should make up about 50% of your calories and even more for an active person. Don't believe those low carb diets because they will just make you feel hungrier and make you feel lethargic throughout the day. What is important is eating the right types of carbs. While simple carbs are usually bad, they are not a bad choice right after physical activity because your body will burn them off. They will primarily be bad for your body when eating them before bed or eating them throughout the day. Constantly eating foods like donuts will only lead to weight gain. Junk food should be eaten in moderation, while healthier foods like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta etc. should make up most of your diet.


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    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 

      7 years ago

      I learned to cut out simple carbs and use a small amount of complex carbs in most meals to lose weight.

    • Rob Winters profile image

      Rob Winters 

      7 years ago

      Nice str8 forward and to the point explanation of carbs. You're dead right that a lot of people have the blanket 'all carbs are bad' view. Just like many of them also have the 'all fats are bad' or 'all fats are equal' view. Up and Useful.


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