What Are Complex Carbohydrates, & Why Are They Important?

Increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates has various positive health effects. (Image via Unplsah/ Micheile Dot)
Increasing intake of complex carbohydrates has various positive health effects. (Image via Unplsah/Micheile Dot)

The food we eat contains simple as well as complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates can be found in foods like fruit and table sugar, whereas complex carbs, or starches, are found in foods like whole grains and vegetables like sweet potatoes.


The body gets energy from both varieties of carbs. Simple carbohydrates provide energy for brief periods, while complex carbs provide energy for longer.

Compared to simple carbohydrates, complex carbs have longer chains of sugar molecules. These molecules are converted by the body into glucose, which it uses as fuel. As complex carbohydrate chains are longer than those of simple carbs, they take longer to digest and offer the body longer-lasting energy.

Why Complex Carbohydrates Are Important?

The body converts the carbohydrates consumed into simple sugars that are taken into the bloodstream. The pancreas secretes the hormone insulin as the blood sugar level rises. For sugar to be transported from the blood into the cells, where it may be used as an energy source, insulin is required.

You're more likely to experience hunger again shortly if this process happens quickly, such as with simple sugars found in foods and drinks with added sugar and high-calorie sweets.


It takes a bit longer for the body to convert the complex carbs in whole grains into simple sugars, so you will feel fuller for longer when it happens more gradually, as with whole-grain food. You have energy for a longer period when you consume these types of complex carbs.

Benefits of Complex Carbohydrates

Here’s a list of benefits offered by complex carbohydrates:

1) Aids in weight loss

Complex carbs make you feel filled for longer, as they're processed slowly. That lessens the desire to snack in between meals, which is a major contributor to weight gain. Additionally, as the energy is released gradually, it aids in maintaining a constant blood sugar level.


When blood sugar spikes and drops are prevented from consuming complex carbohydrates, the likelihood of sneaking in a few sweet goodies decreases. Additionally, you can include exercises to help you lose weight for better results.

2) Loaded with nutrients

As the process of refining simple carbohydrates frequently strips away these elements, complex carbohydrates typically have higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than simple carbohydrates.

3) Keep a check on blood sugar level

As you metabolize complex carbohydrates more slowly, they can also prevent blood sugar spikes resulting from consuming highly processed, refined carbohydrates.

List of Foods Containing Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates that haven't been refined or processed are the healthiest, and these include:

  • Oats, oatmeal, and other whole grains, as well as brown rice and wild rice
  • Food grains like buckwheat and quinoa
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn)
  • Non-starchy vegetables (zucchini, asparagus)
  • Legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas


It's best to stay away from or limit refined grains and processed foods when consuming complex carbohydrates. That's because the bran and germ, two of the three components that make up grain kernels, are removed, along with the fiber, good fats, and nutrients they contain.

How Much Complex Carbohydrates Should I Eat?

Your daily calorie intake should be roughly 50% complex carbohydrates. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains is crucial for your overall health and wellness, as adults require between 25 and 38 grams of fiber each day.

Consider dividing your plate into four sections as you prepare your meals for the week. Colorful fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate, while something starchy like potatoes, rice, pasta, or bread should make up one-fourth.

A source of protein, such as fish or chicken, should occupy the last quarter of the dish. Even plant-based proteins like lentils or legumes can be used. The idea is to maintain a healthy mix of proteins, carbs, and fats.


This pretty well sums up the reasons why carbohydrates are necessary for diet. Increasing intake of complex carbohydrates has various positive health effects, including regulating blood sugar and maintaining good intestinal health.

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