In its most basic state, carbohydrates are organic compounds which are found in tissues and food, that can be broken down to be one of the 3 major sources of energy for animals and humans.
Carbohydrates can be classified as simple or complex, and they are mainly sugars and starches.
While simple carbohydrates consist of one or two sugars, (and include food items such as fructose and white flour), complex carbohydrates consist of three or more sugars and they usually have a rich fiber content.
These complex carbohydrates are a dietary starch made of sugar molecules that are strung together like a necklace, or branched like a coil. Complex carbohydrates ensure that your body has what it needs to operate at peak performance, and they are usually found in whole plant food.
Because of this, they often have a high number of minerals and vitamins. Below I will list 8 unique complex carbohydrates that you may not know are extremely healthy for you!
The foods listed below are amazing, but if you know that you do not consistently have time for ingesting whole complex carbohydrates; there is easily obtainable complex carbohydrate powder online! This can serve as a moderately decent replacement, and is extremely cheap!
Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are foods that contain a rich number of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants; such as beans, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, peas, potatoes, and lentils. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, have softer texture such as baked goods, white bread, and white rice.
Other types of simple sugar include candy, sweeteners such as table sugar, and honey.
Simple carbohydrates are easily digested, and since they are absorbed fast, they lead to a spike in blood sugar and a quick boost in energy.
Although fruits, dairy, and vegetables are technically made of simple carbohydrates, they contain protein, fiber, and other nutrients which cause them to act like complex carbohydrates in the body.
A complex carbohydrate has many advantages for fat loss and muscle gain, essentially since it is generally full of more essential nutrients overall. This will enable you to have a healthier and more productive body, leading to the positive changes you are looking to make!
8 Unique Complex Carbohydrates
One of the best sources of complex carbohydrates is oats, because they are a highly nutritious gluten-free cereal that contains a healthy type of fiber known as beta gluten. Beta gluten is known to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in the body.
Oats are unique because they have a blend of different forms of starch, and this makes them great for replenishing energy stores and managing blood sugar.
Oats can be effective for starting your day, or filling in any time between meals.
Oats have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels, and are very effective at keeping you full without needing to eat too many calories overall. I start my days off every morning with a bowl of oatmeal containing also honey, maple syrup, and coconut oil!
Millet, Buckwheat and Amaranth
These are all heirloom grains that have been cultivated for more than 7,000 years by indigenous populations. All three of these are highly nutritious, and gluten free.
They contain more minerals and vitamins than other grains, and because of their high fiber and antioxidant content, they are beneficial for blood sugar control. This makes them a perfect “comfort” food to eat for post workout glycogen replenishment.
My wife is a huge fan of buckwheat, and it is far more commonly eaten in Eastern countries than in the West. I personally am more of a fan of millet, but any of these three will serve you wonderfully!
If you would like to buy buckwheat but do not see it at your store, the best brand of buckwheat can be purchased even cheaper online than in stores anyways! You can easily purchase a stock of this to have for months on end!
These grains are excellent options for vegan protein sources!
Sweet Potatoes and Other Tubers
The indigenous people of Okinawa, Japan are one of the longest-living populations on the planet, and researchers believe that this is partly due to their unique diet.
About 70 percent of the calories these people consume are from sweet potatoes and yams! These “tubers” that have a bright orange color are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber; making them one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Both can be enjoyed with a small amount of butter, and a dash of cinnamon, to make a delicious treat!
Although it is considered technically as a seed, quinoa is composed of an exceptional nutritional balance between protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Quinoa is extremely beneficial for cell membrane health, and brain function. Quinoa is great for a post-workout meal or with dinner, and you can enhance your glucose uptake by eating quinoa with vegetables or spices.
Quinoa isn’t especially “tasty” so mixing it with other vegetables or in to a soup is an excellent way to enjoy the health benefits!
The variations of squash that can lighten up your meal are endless. Some of these variations include yellow summer squash, spaghetti squash, acorn, butternut, and zucchini. They are all packed with fiber and nutrients, and are relatively low in overall carbohydrate content.
You can bake them, sauté with greens, or they can be used as a substitute for popular refined carbs such as regular pasta noodles.
Whole Fruits and Bananas
Of course, fruits are very rich in a variety of phytonutrients that have many health-enhancing properties. A good example is blueberries, which contains anthocyanin that not only reduces inflammation, but also protects against everything from cancer to diabetes.
Since they are low in calories, they are a great choice of food if you are trying to lose fat. However, if your goal is exercise recovery, then watermelon, bananas, or pineapples may be a better choice.
Bananas can raise the levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, and significantly improve blood antioxidant levels.
They also contain prebiotics, on which the beneficial bacteria in your gut thrives; making them a great anti-stress food.
Lentils and Legumes
Since they are very high in fiber, and provide a balanced macronutrient profile to help fight hunger; beans and lentils are some of the healthiest sources of complex carbohydrates. Lentils contain the highest phytonutrient levels of all legumes, which makes them protective against many diseases associated with stress including:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
One of the unique benefits of leafy vegetables is that you can eat them in great quantities, since they are very low in calories and filled with fiber and nutrition. Some of the best leafy green vegetables to try include kale, rainbow, and Swiss chard; which contain antioxidants that are linked to the prevention of cancer, and blood sugar management.
Others are collards and arugula, which is packed with nitrates that help to improve blood flow and may enhance exercise capacity.
Health Benefits of Complex Carbohydrates
There are several reasons why it is much better to consume more complex carbohydrates than simple carbohydrates, including:
- Better Digestion- Because of the rich fiber content of complex carbohydrates, when they are consumed, they allow for your digestive tract to work much more smoothly overall. This often leads to less bloating and gas. Constipation can also be improved in this manner, as more toxins are removed from your body
- Energizes the Body for a Longer Period of Time– Although eating simple carbohydrates provides a quick way to fulfill a craving and fill your stomach, they are quick to digest and causes hunger to return faster. Complex carbohydrates take a much longer time to digest, and are key to fulfilling hunger and providing you with a long-lasting source of energy.
- Enhances Healthy Heart- A diet that is rich in vegetables has been proven to reduce LDL cholesterol, and guard against heart attack and angina by lowering blood pressure. Complex carbohydrates can help you maintain a healthy heart, while whole grains and legumes help to guard the heart by lowering cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risk.
- Weight Loss- When you eat complex carbohydrates, you will feel full faster; and for a longer period. This results in less cravings, and the need to eat unhealthy snacks that can occur between planned meals will greatly diminish. Rather than reaching for a simple carbohydrate, snacking on a complex carbohydrate or incorporating them into your meals is a great way to stay on track with your weight loss program, or weight maintenance goals.
- Lowers Inflammation- Complex Carbohydrates also provide antioxidants, and other vital nutrients that are essential for removing free radicals, and reducing inflammation
- Enhances Athletic Performance- Complex carbohydrates improve the replenishment of muscle glycogen stores, and therefore enables athletes to perform much better.
- They Enhance Restful Sleep- By lowering the stress hormone cortisol, complex carbohydrates enable you to have a more restful sleep
- Enhances your Mood- Complex carbs provide the building blocks that is necessary for the body to synthesize the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, and this improves your mood and well-being.
Complex carbohydrates are important to your body, and are essential for anyone looking to build a healthier body.
All the carbohydrates listed above will make excellent additions to your diet, and can be extremely helpful in creating a well-rounded diet overall!