Understanding the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is an essential part of managing a healthy diet plan. In general, simple carbohydrates are what you want to avoid most of the time, because they lack real value. That does not mean that simple carbs are never a healthy thing. Moderation is the key. Talk to your doctor about your diet plan and how simple carbohydrates fit in it.
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Simple Vs. Complex
All carbohydrates break down to one thing: sugar. Simple carbs contain only one or two sugar molecules, but complex carbs consist of a string of sugars. Foods that contain simple carbohydrates tend to be processed, such as candies. Complex carbs are natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, pasta and bread.
Role of Carbohydrates
Both simple and complex carbs have one purpose: to provide energy. Your body breaks down carbs for immediate fuel. This is where simple carbs do have some benefit. The Franklin Institute describes complex carbohydrates as time-release capsules. It takes longer for your body to make use of the energy in a complex carbohydrate. Simple carbs have fewer components, so the breakdown is quick. If you need fast fuel, you can get that from a simple carb, but it may take longer with complex.
When to Eat Simple Carbs
When you are feeling fatigued or run down, a simple carbohydrate may perk you up temporarily. Eating sugar gives you immediate access to fuel. There are times when that is an advantage. When the level of sugar in your blood drops, you may feel sluggish or even ill. Eating a simple carb, such as a piece of candy, may raise your blood sugar and give you the burst you need. This is why diabetics carry simple sugars with them in case their blood sugar plummets unexpectedly.
There is little benefit to simple carbohydrates beyond the quick pick-me-up. As a rule, complex carbs should be your focus for a balanced diet. If you do need the occasional simple carb, get it from fruit juices or enjoy a teaspoon of honey. The immediate energy simple carbohydrates offer doesn't last. Once you burn it off, fatigue will return. A better option is to eat a piece of fruit. This will provide energy longer than the simple carbohydrates in a candy bar.