What Are Simple Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are organic compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. There are two types: simple, and complex, and they are characterized as such by their molecular structure. For simplicity’s sake, think of the structure of a carbohydrate as a ring, one that is, of course, far too small to fit on a finger. If the carbohydrate in question is composed of just one or two rings, then it is a “simple” carbohydrate. Glucose, which the muscles of your body uses for energy, is a simple (one-ring) carbohydrate. Sucrose, or table sugar, is one of the two-ringed varieties. Thanks to their uncomplicated nature, simple carbohydrates are broken down by the body and digested fairly quickly. Carbohydrates with more than two rings are known as the “complex” carbohydrates, take longer to digest, and are typically found in grains and vegetables. Starch is a type of complex carbohydrate.

Bad Simple Carbohydrates

Most people classify carbohydrates according to whether they are “good” or “bad,” with most of the simple carbohydrates falling into the “bad” category. But there’s more to the simple carbohydrates than meets the eye. In many cases, simple carbs have gotten a bad reputation because sugar, sometimes coming in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is added in large amounts to highly processed or refined food products, giving them a lot of extra carbohydrates but little else of nutritional value. If you’ve ever heard the term “empty calories,” those types of carbohydrates are what the phrase is referring to.

Better Simple Carbohydrates

The simple carbohydrates found in fruit, yogurt or milk or better for you than those in the more highly processed foods for a number of reasons. Since no sugar is added, they’re lower in energy, which reduces the risk of a spike in blood-sugar levels. That’s important if you’re a diabetic. There are also more nutrients per carb present in those foods, so there are no empty calories, which is good news for any diet.

Simple Sources

Apples are a good source of the “better” simple carbohydrates, as well as blackberries, blueberries and cherries. Most fruits are, in fact.  Cakes, candy, fudge and chocolate are where you’ll find the “bad” ones.


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