Carbohydrates make up a major part of your everyday diet, with a recommended 45-65% of your total calorie intake coming from carbs. Your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, which enters your bloodstream to provide your cells with energy. However, not all carbohydrates are equal.
Simple carbs have been refined and stripped of most of their fibre and nutrients, making them quick to absorb but losing many health benefits. This rapid absorption results in a sugar spike that can put strain on your pancreas, and taking in calories faster than your body can process them often leads to weight gain. Simple carbs are in all the sugary things you’ve been told to avoid: soft drinks, fruit drinks, white bread, maple and corn syrups, candies, white and brown sugar and even honey.
Complex carbohydrates are your “good carbs”, and are often referred to as starch. Complex carbs take longer to digest, resulting in a more even energy release and helping you feel full for longer. For example, brown and white rice may have the same amount of calories, but brown rice affects insulin levels differently, so you don’t get hungry again quite so soon.
These healthy carbs are commonly found in whole grains, green or starchy vegetables and beans. Their higher fibre content aids digestion and gut health, and most complex carbohydrates foods have other vital nutrients to be absorbed at the same time. Furthermore, fruit, dairy and some vegetables technically contain simple carbs, but their fibre and other nutrients make them act more like complex carbs, so you should still eat these daily.
The Best Complex Carbs
Is there anything this magical orange lump can’t do? Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are great source of healthy carbs, and are also high in protein and many vitamins and minerals.
There’s a reason oats are regarded as a super-healthy food. As well as stabilising blood sugar, oats can also lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, enhance your body’s immune response, and more.
While these humble beans are a good source of complex carbs, that is only the first of their wonders. Chickpeas are loaded with protein and insoluble fibre, making them a huge boost to both your general and digestive health.
Eat it, love it, learn to pronounce it. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as fibre, iron, antioxidants, complex carbs and other vitamins and minerals.
This remarkable pseudo-cereal is a full of good carbs, has more protein than oats and is actually higher in some minerals than most vegetables. Amaranth is also the only grain with vitamin C content.
Peas and Corn
The great thing about these colourful little guys is that their carb content is nearly all starch. An easy companion to almost any meal, peas and corn are also high in fibre and other minerals.