Chains of sugars are one of the main sources of the body's energy. A single molecule or two-molecule chain of sugars is called a simple sugar, and longer chains are called complex carbohydrates. Both types fuel our bodies and provide energy, but there are some important differences between the two.
There are two kinds of complex carbohydrates that are often talked about in terms of nutrition. One is starch, which is a digestible complex carbohydrate that provides fuel for the body. The other is cellulose, a fiber source. Because natural foods have cellulose in them, our bodies are made to have a certain amount of fiber pass through them, even though we cannot digest and get energy from it.
Simple sugars provide energy, but have several downfalls when compared to complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are often less processed than their simpler counterparts, which is especially true when only considering fiber. Some simple sugars are found in nature– fruit sugar is a natural, simple sugar– but many are processed from foods that used to have fiber or starch.
The next reason is that simple sugars are metabolized faster, and thus tend to enter the bloodstream all at once after a meal is eaten. This ‘sugar rush' can trigger large amounts of insulin, which tells cells to take up sugars, and then cause a drop in blood sugar that may make people feel ill or moody. This is why some people cannot eat a very sugary food alone, without other foods.
Starches are slower to metabolize than simple sugars, and therefore enter the bloodstream a little at a time and more slowly. This doesn't create a sugar spike, and thus only triggers low levels of insulin. This prevents the fast blood sugar crash, too.
The less processed option is usually the better option, health wise. Complex carbs, especially fiber, are often removed from foods when they are processed. White rice and white flour are just brown rice and whole wheat flour with the hulls (and most of the fiber) removed. Some vegetables are good sources of starch, and most are great sources of fiber, which helps you feel full as well as being good for your digestive system.
Simple sugars taste great, but they should really be eaten in moderation. Given that carbohydrates should make up a fairly large percentage of your diet, this means you should be eating a lot of complex carbs. Check with your doctor, or look up what kinds of foods supply these nutrients, and improve your diet by eating right.
categories: Carbohydrates,complex carbohydrates,Diet,Diet food,health food