Complex carbohydrates are created when three or more simple sugar molecules link together in a chain. Complex carbohydrates are found mostly in plant foods. They form the starches that plants use to store energy, as well as the cellulose that forms the structure of plants. Complex carbohydrates should make up about half of your daily food intake, since they're your body's primary source of fuel. Here are some foods that contain complex carbohydrates.
1) Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates. They also contain some naturally occurring simple carbohydrates, like glucose. While you should minimize your consumption of simple carbohydrates, the low levels of simple carbs found in fruits and vegetables aren't harmful when weighed against the nutritional benefits of such foods. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, high levels of starches and other complex carbs, and may also contain fat and protein.
Some fruits and vegetables high in complex carbs include:
- Dill pickles
Green vegetables, like spinach, green beans and broccoli, contain complex carbohydrates, but they also contain very high levels of fiber. Fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants as well as complex carbohydrates.
2) Whole Grains
Whole grains are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber. While all grains contain high levels of complex carbs, whole grains also provide large amounts of fiber. Some grains that contain high levels of complex carbohydrates include:
A diet healthy high in complex carbohydrates will be high in grains. Grains should form the basis of your diet, and at least half of the foods you eat should be grain based for good health.
3) Whole Grain Breads and Pastas
Whole grain breads and pastas are very high in complex carbs. While breads made with refined white and wheat flours are high in simple carbs and should be avoided, breads made with whole grains offer high levels of complex carbs to give you energy and regulate your blood sugar. These foods are also high in fiber, which is good for digestion, and helps you feel fuller longer after eating, so that you'll be less tempted to snack.
4) Nuts, Seeds and Legumes
Like grains, nuts, seeds and legumes are very high in complex carbohydrates. These foods also contain protein, healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and a range of vitamins and minerals. They're high in fiber to aid digestion and help maintain a healthy weight. Nuts, seeds and legumes that are high in complex carbohydrates include:
- Chick peas
- Split peas
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
5) Dairy Products
Some dairy products are also high in complex carbohydrates, though you should choose healthier low-fat dairy products to prevent high cholesterol and other side effects of a high-fat diet. Soy milk, low-fat yogurt and skim milk are all good choices for adding complex carbohydrates to your diet.