Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

My husband and I went back and forth whether or not we should put pictures of our children on my blog. At first we weren’t sure, but now we are comfortable sharing their pictures. The twins are 18 months old. My daughter, E, is 3 minutes older than my son, S.

E and S with Red Wagon

My daughter has brown hair and looks like me. My son has blonde hair and looks like my husband.

E and S on Bench

My daughter is outgoing and is a daddy’s girl. My son is not as outgoing and is a mommy’s boy. These two definitely keep my husband and me busy and fill our lives with happiness.

And lucky for us, they didn’t get sick from last week’s story time.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything nutrition related. This post is about carbohydrates and is a continuation of the post 7 Tips for Balancing Your Meals.

Carbohydrates are the body’s source of immediate energy. They provide energy to your muscles and organs, such as the brain.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates are easily digestible monosaccharaides (one sugar unit) and disaccharides (two sugar units linked together). Examples are fruit and sugar. Monosaccharaides are the simplest form of carbohydrate and cannot be broken down any further.

Oligosaccharides are short chains of monosaccharaides.

Complex carbohydrates are not as easily digestible and consist of long chains of monosaccharaides that contain starch and/or fiber. Examples are whole grains and vegetables.

Simple carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, causes the blood sugar to spike and triggers the release of insulin.

Insulin is a storage hormone that unlocks cells to allow the uptake of glucose, blood sugar.

Because blood sugar spikes after eating simple carbohydrates, it tends to fall quickly. This causes you to feel hungry faster. These carbohydrates also tend to be more on the sweeter side.

Eating simple carbohydrates with protein and fat can help slow down the rate it digests and blood sugar spike. It is best to eat them after a hard workout when you need to refill glycogen stores in muscles.

Even though the sugar in fruit, fructose, is a simple carbohydrate, it does not digest quickly like sugar. This is due to the fiber in fruit.

Once the carbohydrate is broken down, the glucose goes to the liver to fill the energy stores. This process is insulin independent. After filling the liver’s stores, it is released into the bloodstream to provide energy to your body’s cells. This process is insulin dependent.

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are broken down at a much slower pace causing the blood sugar to rise slowly and more evenly. This will help you to feel more sated and full longer. These carbohydrates tend to be not as sweet as simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates also have fiber. Fiber is a non-digestible form of carbohydrate.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and non-soluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in hot water (example pectin).

  • delays gastric emptying
  • increases the time in takes to get through the intestines
  • decrease nutrient absorption, such as glucose and fat(fatty acids, cholesterol and bile)

Non-soluble fiber does not dissolve in hot water (example cellulose).

  • increases the time it takes to get through the intestines
  • increases fecal bulk

It is recommended that you have a daily intake of 25-30 grams of fiber. If you are new to fiber, I recommend a small intake of fiber, such as 5 grams, and increase a small amount every other day until you reach the recommend amount. This will decrease any bloating, gas and cramps you might feel. Once your body gets use to the fiber, you should no longer feel any cramping.

The amount of carbohydrates needed is different for everyone especially depending on your activity level and goals.

I recommend eating fruits and/or vegetables with all of your meals. Replace processed high carbohydrate foods, such as crackers and pretzels, with whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit.

If you are trying to lose weight, fill half of your plate with vegetables and the other half with 4-6 ounces of protein. Add fruit, beans/legumes and healthy fats to your daily diet. If you want to eat something starchy, save it for after your workout. Keep in mind, to lose weight you need to decrease your total calories.


Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. and Groff, J.L. Advanced Nutrition And Human Metabolism. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth. 2005

Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier. 2004.

Red heart

Are you comfortable sharing pictures of your children and/or yourself online?

Do you keep track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat?

Have you ever limited your carbohydrate intake to lose weight?

--Yes. I have dropped my carbohydrate intake to about 45% to lose weight. If I’m running a lot, I like to keep my carbohydrate intake around 50%.


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