Carbohydrates: simple or complex? Carbohydrates: simple or complex?

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and they consist of one of the three groups of macronutrients that every balanced diet needs.

Together with proteins and fats, carbohydrates help meet the body’s dietary needs. They are essential for the brain and lungs to work properly.

As important as they are for the body, it is equally important to know what the right quantity for one’s daily allowance is and to identify which carbohydrates contribute to nutrition the most. This starts by differentiating between the two biggest groups of carbohydrates: simple and complex carbohydrates.

Once they are within the body, all carbohydrates turn into glucose. As nutritionist Clara Lucía Valderrama explains, the absorption time of complex carbohydrates is longer, which is why the energy they produce in the body is not as immediate but more long-term, contributing a more significant provision of nutrients. Simple carbohydrates have a much faster effect, but tend to accumulate and turn into fat.

Complex carbohydrates are mostly whole grains such as rice, wheat, barley and corn as well as legumes and vegetables that turn into starch, known for providing a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars with little nutritional value, which is why it is recommended to limit their consumption to small portions. This group includes table sugar, refined flour, chocolates, pastries, sweets and cookies as well as sugary sodas or beverages.

It is therefore important to give priority to complex carbohydrates over simple ones. Remember that just because they are flours are sugars does not mean that you should eliminate them from your diet. On the contrary, they are fundamental to providing you with the energy your body needs.

The following are recommendations to include in your diet:

  • Legumes: lentils, white beans and pinto beans
  • Vegetables: spinach, green beans, broccoli, zucchini
  • Grains: oats, rice, bread and whole-wheat pasta

Carbohydrates provide the body with more than 60% of the energy that it needs.