Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates: Difference and Comparison

Carbohydrates are a dietary nutrient that accounts for most of our daily caloric intake. To get through the day, we require roughly 50-60% of our regular food intake to be carbs.

They are quickly processed and utilized in the body, and they are the dietary components that provide us with the energy we require to move, operate, and conduct everyday tasks.

They are also referred to as sugar. Carbohydrates are subdivided into simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Simple carbohydrates are quickly broken down and absorbed by the body, while complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and provide sustained energy.
  2. Simple carbohydrates can cause rapid blood sugar spikes, whereas complex carbohydrates help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  3. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, while simple carbohydrates are found in sugary foods, processed grains, and fruit.

Simple Carbohydrates vs Complex Carbohydrates 

Simple carbohydrates are composed of one or two sugar molecules and are rapidly digested by the body, resulting in a quick spike in blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates are composed of three or more sugar molecules and take longer to digest, resulting in a gradual release of energy.

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Simple Carbohydrates vs Complex Carbohydrates

Simple Carbohydrates are simple sugar. Sugars are present in a wide variety of natural sources of food, such as fruits, veggies, and milk, and provide a sweet flavour to meals. They do, however, quickly elevate blood glucose levels.

Sugars are classified as either single sugars (monosaccharides), such as fructose, glucose, and galactose, or double sugar (disaccharides), such as sucrose (table sugar), lactose, and maltose. 

Complex Carbohydrates are starchy molecules that are present in entire meals such as fruits and vegetables and include fibre as well as vitamins and minerals.

Since complex carbohydrates contain fibre, they break down more slowly, providing energy to the body over a longer period and helping to maintain blood sugar stability.

Complex carbohydrates also make you feel fuller, which reduces your impulse to overeat. 

Comparison Table  

Parameters of Comparison Simple Carbohydrates Complex Carbohydrates 
Definition Often known as simple sugars, contain the simplest chemical structure, comprised of one or two sugars. Often termed polysaccharides are starches created by longer saccharide networks with three or more integrated sugars. 
Digestion Quickly digested Takes longer to digest  
Categories  Monosaccharides and Disaccharides Starch 
Level of sweetness  Sweetness is present Less sweet compared to simple carbs 
The glucose level in blood  Boost blood glucose levels immediately Raise blood glucose levels slowly 
Example Fruits, dairy products, as well as some vegetables Brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, kidney beans, and lentils 

What is Simple Carbohydrate? 

Simple carbohydrates, as the names indicate, are simple compounds made up of one or two sugar molecules joined together.

Monosaccharides are singular sugar molecules such as glucose, fructose, and galactose that serve as the foundation for those other carbohydrates, whereas disaccharides would be double sugar molecules such as sucrose, maltose, and lactose.  

Because simple carbs are made up of smaller sugar bands, they are digested and absorbed more quickly by the body because they need less time to break down. 

Simple carbs are distinguished by their sweet flavour and may be found in the majority of processed meals, including morning cereals, baked goods, table sugar, brown sugar, soda, chocolate bars, and candy, as well as any processed sugar.  

These simple carbohydrate forms are heavily processed, empty of their own minerals, and should be avoided; however, not all simple carbohydrate forms are filtered.

In contrast, simple carbs may be found in a variety of entire meals, including fruits, dairy products, and some vegetables.  

Entire food sources of simple carbs have the advantage of being high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals, which assist in reducing the rate at which sugar is absorbed while also providing nutritious value. 

What is a Complex Carbohydrate? 

Polysaccharides composed of a large number or thousands of monosaccharide units make up complex carbohydrates. They are also known as polysaccharides. Complex carbs break down more carefully and slowly longer to assimilate into the body.  

They are commonly known as starchy carbohydrates. These are more easily digested, stay in circulation longer, and contain more vitamins and minerals than simple carbohydrates.

Vegetables, whole grains, corns, oats, brown rice, and potatoes are complex carbohydrate-rich foods. 

Complex carbohydrates are prevalent in green vegetables, corn, peas, lentils, beans, and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates are easily found in starch, which is generated by plants for storing energy.

Potatoes are a significant indication of a plant that is high in starch. Starch is made up of glucose, which the body uses when it begins to break down the starch in potatoes.

However, the manner in which complex carbs are ingested can have a significant impact on whether or not they remain an optimal choice.

Grains, for example, are a type of complex carbohydrate, but when processed into refined flour, they become a type of simple carbohydrate since the fibre and nutrient-dense bran and germ are eliminated.

These refined carbs include cereals, muffins, crackers, bagels, cookies, and pastries, to mention a few examples. 

Main Differences Between Simple Carbohydrates And Complex Carbohydrates 

  1. Simple carbohydrates have by far the most fundamental chemical structure, generally consisting of one or two sugars, whereas complex carbs comprise three or more sugar groups. They are commonly known as starchy carbohydrates. 
  2. Simple carbohydrates are quickly digested, but complex carbohydrates take longer. 
  3. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are examples of simple carbohydrates, whereas starch is an example of a complex carbohydrate. 
  4. Sweetness is present in simple carbohydrates; however, complex carbohydrates are less sweet than simple carbohydrates. 
  5. Simple carbohydrates instantly elevate blood glucose levels, but complex carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels gradually.
  6. Many foods contain simple carbohydrates and are high in vitamins, such as fruit, dairy products, as well as some vegetables, whereas complex carbohydrates include whole grains, including brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain, beans and legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils, and so on. 
Difference Between Simple Carbohydrates And Complex Carbohydrates
References
  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/ismej2011212  
  2. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=2DK2AEHaT1UC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=complex+carbohydrates&ots=KeZD5czULQ&sig=FWkktSQaZabg8Jsmx8XzjreuzXU  
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